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John Morgan on gov's race: 'I don't have to make my decision until horses are coming down the stretch'

John Morgan July 2017@MaryEllenKlas

Armed with Florida name ID and deep enough pockets to self-finance a run for office, Orlando attorney John Morgan said Thursday he is in no hurry to decide whether to run for governor in 2018.

"I'm going to think about it,'' he said, after filing a lawsuit challenging the law the Florida Legislature passed implementing the medical marijuana amendment he bankrolled. The legislature wrote the law to prohibit smoking as a medical use.

"I see no advantage for me announcing today or any time close to today,'' he told reporters. "All the people that have announced are doing things that I would hate to be doing -- which would be having coffee clutches, and bull-shitting people, and telling everybody what they want to hear no matter what the position is in the clutch and raising money."

Morgan, a Democrat who owns race horses, said he has nearly a year before he must decide.

"I'm going to have the advantage to let the race take off, come all the way around, and I don't have to make a decision until the horses are all coming down the stretch. Wouldn't you love to bet that way? You could make a lot of money."

Morgan chided the Legislature and House speaker for prohibiting smoking when they allowed for the implementation of medical marijuana in Florida, giving him yet another platform on which to spread his name recognition.

"I told Richard Corcoran the worst thing you could do to boost me is to limit smoke,'' he said.

He said he is now drafting another amendment initiative that will earn him more free media -- raising the Florida minimum wage -- and is will start collecting signatures this year, get the language before the Florida Supreme Court next year, and have it ready for the 2020 election ballot, another presidential election year.

"I learned a lot of lessons in this process,'' he said. "I know how to do it and I know that a presidential election year is better than an off-year election."

He said that he has hired former House speaker and constitutional law expert Jon Mills at Boies Shiller to draft the wage amendment.

"Whether you're a Bernie Sanders voter or a Donald Trump voter, what people were really mad about was that people get up every day, they do all the right things, they work their asses off and they come home and they're worse off than when they left the door,'' he said. "The reason that is is because they are not paid fairly."

He mentioned the food bank his law firm built as part of the Second Harvest food network in Orlando, called the Morgan & Morgan Hunger Relief Center. It feeds 250,000 people a month.

"The people who come there are not homeless. It's the working poor,'' Morgan said. "It's people who come in uniforms, coming from Winn Dixie or Wal-Mart and service stations and service trucks, to basically ask for free food. That's wrong."

He hasn't determined how high to set the minimum wage. "I've got to figure out what will pass,'' he said.

Meanwhile, his lawsuit filed Thursday, quickly drew criticism. 

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes federal funding of marijuana research, blasted Morgan lawsuit against the state as “nothing more than a smokescreen designed to bypass the FDA and open the doors to a new for-profit, retail commercial marijuana industry in Florida.”

Morgan, who has indicated an interest in investing $100 million in a medical marijuana dispensary, didn't hesitate with an answer.

"I wake up everyday and my 100 percent effort is to make money -- and lots of it,'' he said. "And I'm never going to apologize for that."

He said he was about to board his private plane, fly to his office in Brooklyn "to make money. And I'm going to leave Brooklyn and fly back to Atlanta, to make money, and I'm going to start a new insurance company this year -- to make money. And I'm going to build a new attraction in Branson, Missouri, to make money. And if people want to criticize me for making money, well, they're going to get to criticize me until the day I die because I plan on being a capitalist until the day I die.

"I'm not Mother Teresa. I'm not Pope Francis. I'm John Morgan and I describe myself as a compassionate capitalist."

Can you make money as governor?

"I don't think you can,'' he answered.