John Morgan single-handedly turned Florida’s medical marijuana program from a pipe dream into a reality. The long-time trial lawyer and Democratic moneyman put his full force, both physically and financially, behind 2016’s MMJ ballot measure. It took four years of speaking tours, political shoulder rubbing and $9 million of his own personal money, but in a state full of Republicans and elderly folks, the cannabis amendment that Morgan authored passed with over 70% of the public vote - over 2 million more votes than Floridians cast for Donald Trump on the same November day.
Since November, however, Florida’s Republican-led state legislators have whittled down the voter-approved bill and cut out as much of the cannabis law as possible, changing regulations that Morgan had been championing for years - most notably an outright ban on smokeable medical marijuana. Not one to roll over, Morgan filed a lawsuit against the state to overturn the smoking ban and is currently awaiting a trial date in Tallahassee.
According to a new report from Politico, the lawsuit won’t be settled for a number of months, but thanks to the landslide vote in November, his long-time political connections, persistent headlines related to the latest litigation, and years of television advertisements for his high profile law firm, Florida’s most vocal cannabis advocate is gathering steam for what most local politicians presume will be a run at the governor’s mansion in 2018.
“I think he’d be hard to beat, honestly, Republican or Democrat,” Stephani Scruggs Bowen, former director of Florida field operations for the Trump campaign, told Politico. “Everybody knows his face and his voice. And plus, he comes across as a guy who everybody, regardless of party lines, would like to sit down and have a beer with. Because he’d be a hell of a lot of fun. And that makes him hard to beat, on any issue.”
With Morgan’s work pertaining to medical marijuana almost finished, he’s changed his focus to another highly electable issue; the fight to raise the minimum wage. In a Gubernatorial campaign, higher wages, along with recreational cannabis and criminal justice reform, would be the crux of Morgan’s platform.
“That’s the reason for the anger that we were seeing in the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump supporters,” Morgan said. “That the harder they worked, the further they fell behind. And it’s not a Republican or a Democrat issue. It’s just a people issue.”
Because Morgan is unabashedly loud and boisterous, Florida politicians are quick to compare Morgan to the president, but from an ideological standpoint, the lifelong trial lawyer is about as far from Trump as possible.
“If I were king of Florida, I would walk through the prisons and release everyone in there for possession alone,” Morgan said. “Everyone.”
With moves like that, Morgan would no doubt turn Florida’s Republican status quo on its head. And while the self-described “entrepreneur on steroids” contends that he hasn’t made a decision about his possible candidacy, and certainly hasn’t put pen to paper to officially begin a gubernatorial campaign, Florida residents and politicians from both sides of the aisle are already lining up to grab a drink with the Sunshine State’s prince of pot.
“He could be a great governor.” Former Florida head of state Charlie Crist, said of Morgan’s potential run. “I told him, I said, ‘If you run, I think you’ll win.’ And I believe that.”