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From backer to critic, Roger Stone blasts RX pot push as a Charlie Crist front

@MarcACaputo

Florida political consultant Roger Stone had a falling out with a Florida medical-marijuana group and accused it Tuesday of acting like a front for Democrat Charlie Crist if he decides to run for governor next year.

“No Republicans or Democrats who aren't supporting Charlie Crist need apply,” Stone wrote on his Stone Zone blog Tuesday, noting Crist works for the head of People United for Medical Marijuana.

PUFMM’s de facto manager, Ben Pollara, denied Stone’s claims as "untrue" and disputed his interpretation of the proposed constitutional amendment as well.

“Roger is a complicated character as you know,” Pollara said, declining to discuss the falling out with the libertarian consultant once known for being a GOP dirty-trickster.

Stone’s criticism comes at a tough time for PUFMM, which is struggling to collect more than 683,000 valid voter petitions in just a few months in order to simply make the 2014 ballot.

With petition-gathering as a focus, Pollara said, the group has rebuffed paying consultants from all ends of the political spectrum, including Stone, because “we’re on a shoestring budget.”

But Stone, an early backer of the effort, wrote that he noticed a change in PUFMM after it was recently taken over by trial lawyer John Morgan, a major Democratic fundraiser who employs Crist in his legal office.

Since then, Stone wrote, it’s tough to get a phone call returned. He said a handful of top Florida Republicans who might have been interested in working for the PUFMM group were given the cold shoulder.

But one of those Republicans in question, Republican consultant Brian Hughes, said he was concerned that Stone was over-hyping his involvement.

He expressed some displeasure with Stone for dragging him into the fight publicly: “Any characterization by Roger Stone is influenced by Roger’s heightened sense of imagination and hubris.”

Hughes said he barely spoke with Stone about the effort, talked to no one affiliated with PUFMM and wasn’t “stiff-armed or brushed off by anyone. A few conversations with a person does not a client-relationship make.”

Hughes said he wouldn’t work for the PUFMM group anyway because he believes that the proposed amendment is too broadly written for conservatives to stomach. The amendment does not clearly prohibit a physician from recommending marijuana to anyone who has a condition that’s not seriously debilitating or gravely ill.

“It’s a loser of an issue if it takes Florida down the road of where these other states have gone. That language is why California got to where it did,” Hughes said. “This current effort exceeds what people are interested in doing. For its lack of vision and apparent political motivations, it’s the wrong thing at the wrong time.”

But Pollara insisted the amendment is tightly drafted and that the effort isn’t being done to help Democrats or Crist, who recently made favorable statements about the initiative. Pollara noted PUFMM hired a Republican firm, National Voter Outreach, to collect petition signatures.

Polls indicate Crist would be the toughest opponent for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, for whom Hughes has worked and whose pollster is longtime friends with Stone.

One early poll by PUFMM indicated medical marijuana could be a significant issue in the governor’s race and could help a candidate who embraces it. Scott is opposed.

In all, two PUFMM surveys from different pollsters and one by an independent group, found about 7 in 10 Florida voters would likely back the type of medical-marijuana amendment proposed. It takes 60 percent voter approval to pass a Florida constitutional amendment.

“We’ve had 70 percent of Floridians in 3 different polls who said they support it,” Pollara said. “This is not a partisan issue, and both Democrats and Republicans have been quite cowardly with this issue.”

Pollara pointed out that a liberally funded constitutional amendment that aimed to stop partisan political gerrymandering passed in 2010 because the policy was right.

“When people go in the voting booth, they’re going to vote their candidate,” he said. “But they’re going to read our language and they’re going to vote for this because it’s good compassionate policy. It doesn’t matter if they have a D or R by their name.”

Stone said he, too, wants the policy and has the same goals to decriminalize marijuana for sick people.

But he faulted the proposed amendment because it doesn’t go far enough and explicitly allow people to grow marijuana privately. Without that provision, he said, Florida lawmakers will ignore the amendment if passed and people will struggle to get the help they need.

“Under the Morgan proposal if (when) Florida's notoriously right wing legislature refuses to open authorize the opening of dispensaries, those who are sick or dying can... sue,” Stone wrote.

“This is truly a trial lawyers answer to a medical problem.”

Pollara disputed the concern: “I’m not sure Roger even read the amendment.

Pollara pointed out that the amendment says that, if the state doesn’t act within nine months, physicians could recommend marijuana to a qualifying patient anyway. And qualifying patients, such as Bradenton-area activist Cathy Jordan, would be allowed to possess and use the drug under state law.

The amendment, however, doesn’t affect federal law, which still holds marijuana illegal. Nevertheless, 20 states have so far decriminalized marijuana – most often for medical use.

Comments

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John Oscar

Sounds like he is mad because he did not get paid.

Ed Jenkins

This should come as no surprise that Crist who has left the state damaged from his deals to build nuclear plants and that financially ruined Citizens insurance would now try to use laundered illegal drug money to attempt to get back into office. Those groups promoting this issue need to be rounded up and their organizations closed down for their involvement in attempts to promote illegal drug use. At a time when we are finally seeing tobacco use decline the last thing we need is for more harmful narcotics to be promoted.

Pat Kelley

Perhaps it is time to outlaw booze and tobacco too. Those 2 substances cause many more health and social problems than letting sick people use pot ever could. It would allow the state to put many more people in prison. Our brand of politicians would love it.

ers

Roger needs to go to rehab.....or start taking stabilizing psychotic meds!

Henry Wilkerson

Cudos to Roger Stone for telling it like it is. You often find anyone who will stand up to power brokers like Morgan. Floridians are overwhelmingly in favor of reforming marijuana laws and the movement to do so has been hijacked by Morgan, his "employee" turncoat Crist and Pollara who nobody really trusts. California made the changes primarily for the revenue and Florida will do the same. People like Morgan plan on getting (more) rich from it.

Dan Dolan

Bell Pollara is a fake and a phony. I wouldn't trust him with ANYTHING. He is collecting this money for his own pocket.

That is why he is not paying any vendors to do any work. This entire operation seems like it is intended to get votes for Charlie Crist and cash for Ben Pollara, rather than do anything to help Floridians.

PUFMM needs to distance themselves from Pollara before he discredits the entire organization.

Karla von Stetten

Libertarians do not believe in the government telling you what you can and can't put in your own body. Stone gave up a lifetime with the GOP to become a Libertarian. I admire him for standing up for his convictions. I cannot say the same for Charlie Crist who switched from a staunch Republican to a Democrat. While governor, he brought into law the country's toughest sentencing for those caught with marijuana. Use some common sense. Does it seem logical that Crist would suddenly be championing legalization? Morgan arguably has the biggest and most successful ambulance chasing personal injury firms in the U.S. and works Crist like a puppet. You will not see me donating any money towards marijuana reform when Morgan and Crist are manipulating the movement for their personal gain.

Steve Branahan

Roger Stone is a LEGEND. Ben Pollara is a JOKE.

Stone has provided a public service by exposing this scam. Ben Pollara should be in jail for perpetrating such a disservice to Florida voters, donors and those suffering from ailments that could be helped by medical marijuana.

State state needs an organization that will do what they say and spend the money they collect on advertising, media relations and getting the word out to Florida voters to vote for the bill to legalize marijuana in Florida for medical purposes. Without another valid group to fight this battle, only grifters like Ben Pollara will profit - but at the expense of Florida suffering medical patients who could benefit from smoking a little weed. Ben Pollara is undermining the movement.

Jessie Wilkins

I totally agree with Roger Stone’s comment that PUFMM is now a front for Democrat Charlie Crist’s possible run for governor next year. Charlie Crist, the chameleon who once supported the harsh law that mandates a five year prison term for possessing just one ounce of marijuana is suddenly supportive of legalizing marijuana for medical use. Charlie Crist works for John Morgan’s legal firm. Doesn’t that tell you something? It’s unconscionable that John Morgan would take control of the organization dedicated to helping sick and dying people and turn it into a campaign war chest for Charlie Crist’s next gubernatorial campaign.


William Windorf

Battle of the Titans? Floridians know Morgan from his constant barrage of TV commercials that often feature Crist but outside of Florida he is a weenie. Pollara has it in for Stone because Stone reigned victorious over him during the infamous "Recount." I do not trust Pollara. I may take heat for saying it but I admired Nixon for the way he loved his country and did the best he could to guide America in the right direction. Reagan ended up literally saving America. Stone had the trust of both of those presidents so he has mine, too! Sorry Charlie but the culprit here is you and your insatiable political aspirations.

Southfloridareview

This is sick. Morgan and Crist should be ashamed of themselves. Stone is the only guy that has shown any leadership and now he is leaving. How many Floridians need to suffer, because Crist and his buddies think this is a game!!!!

Phillip Dodge

As I pointed out in the companion article, central Florida is not exactly buying Morgan's story. The Tampa Bay blogs are describing Roger Stone as having been an advocate of marijuana reform for far longer than the PUFMM movement. It would seem that Ben Pollara who is the de facto manager of the movement does not like Stone because Stone beat him out during the famous "recount" affair. John Morgan, Charlie Crist and Ben Pollara are not known for their magnanimity. I agree with Roger Stone that this is an organization that I would not lend my support to.

Ziggy

It's not about you Roger. It's not about about Crist either. The fact is that Rick Scott opposes this change of law which is overwhelmingly supported by the public, that is par for the course with his continually misguided policies.
It is not Pollara's fault that Republicans in office do not have the political courage to do what is right on this issue.
Stone is an overpaid hatchet man who does not bring anything to the table here. They need signatures not smear campaigns, which is all that Roger is good at. This article is proof enough of that.
If Roger believes in this or cares about the sick people this campaign would help he should put up and help without expecting a paycheck.

Linda James

We can all thank Roger Stone for exposing this mess. Why doesn't the press report this stuff?

I alway was suspicious of John Morgans claims about his father. They seemed to be used to support his support for the Florida pot bill but his true intentions must have always been to get his buddy Charlie Crist elected again as Florida Governor.

I wish there was another group that could run a campaign for the legalization of pot that DID NOT include John Morgan or Charlie Crist. I would donate to that cause.

Susan Butler

I wouldn’t take anything Pollara says seriously. He a charlatan and I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him. Roger Stone tells you exactly what he thinks. He knows the inside story of this PUFMM scam and thankfully is telling the public about it.


Jane Sinter

I was going to donate to PUFMM after I heard that John Morgan and Charlie Crist were supporting the effort, but I can see how they are using it to distort the election.

The fact that Morgan threw away over 30,000 signatures that were already collected to put the medical marijuana initiative on the FL ballot makes me sick. HE's going to ruin the entire medicinal marijuana effort and set the whole effort back by a year or two. Maybe that was his plan all along.

John Morgan and Charlie Crist should leave politics, leave FLorida and leave us alone.

Stuart Dolan

I would never vote for Charlie Crist. He changes his affiliations more than I change my pants. I thought John Morgan was not so sinister but he really seems to be hijacking the medical marijuana initiative, just for votes.

Politics will ruin any chance for people in pain to benefit from the soothing, non harmful medicinal effects of marijuana. Instead, people will be dependent on prescription pills - which everyone knows are much worse than pot.

Ben Jones

I am outraged that John Morgan would just toss out 30,000 valid signatures from Florida voters who supported the pot amendment. Who made him the leader?

I don't trust Charlie Crist or his best buddy John Morgan. It shows very poor character to promise to pay for something and then to renege on it. He left many people holding the bad since he did not come through with his promise to financially support the medical marijuana petition. That's bad form Mr. Morgan.

Jill Sanders

Charlie Crist is a political grifter. Is for anything that his campaign donors tell him to like. Most of the time it is John Morgan telling Charlie Crist what the donors like and want from him. They are a pair of political players in Florida who play by their own rules and take no prisoners. They have just shown us all how they continue to do it. Morgan promised 3 million to the pro pot efforts, in order to collect more democratic votes from marijuana friendly voters. Instead of helping the effort, he threw away 30,000 signatures that have already been collects and therefore ruined any change Florida had to legalize medical marijuana in Florida in 2014.

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