Adelson Against Florida’s Amendment 2

In Florida, Amendment 2, barring a miracle, may fail on Election Day 2014. In spite of 7 out of 10 Florida voters supporting medical marijuana in the state, according to this Gravis Marketing poll, the ballot measure which would have legalized medical marijuana looks as though it will fall short of the required 60 percent of the vote necessary to pass.

Even though United For Care hired Anzalone Liszt Grove Research to conduct a statewide poll in response to Gravis, it only has Amendment 2 passing with 62 percent in favor, which isn’t exactly reassuring.

If one man can be given the most credit for defeating the measure that would have allowed cancer and HIV-positive patients, among others, access to a safe and affordable palliative, that man should be Sheldon Adelson.

Sheldon Adelson is like a cross between Jackie Mason’s character in “The Jerk,” and the rich Texan from “the Simpsons” who spends endless funds to fulfill his various personal whims. Adelson is the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which is the parent company behind large casinos such as the Venetian. In essence, Adelson’s $31.5 billion fortune was amassed from the gambling industry.

Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News characterized Adelson as a man who makes his decisions based upon a strong streak of personal morals and ethics. To contrast Adelson with other conservative political mega-donors like the Koch brothers, Adelson’s donations are based on personal ideologies rather than creating a business-friendly political climate.

The essential argument is that Adelson is an octogenarian with $31.5 billion, and he’d rather “let his stomach and his heart do the thinking for him,” as an anonymous associate of Adelson told Sunshine State News.

Drug Free Florida is the biggest opposition group of Amendment 2. According to Jason Kirk on CalvinAyre.com, Adelson’s most recent donation of the year to Drug Free Florida was around $1 million, which brought his total donations for the year to about $5 million. The amount Adelson donated this year is equivalent to roughly 86 percent of the entire Drug Free Florida budget.

Furthermore, Adelson’s anti-marijuana sentiments were stoked by a person Nancy Smith said is one of Adelson’s oldest friends, a man named Mel Sembler, who started a juvenile drug-rehab program doing business as STRAIGHT Inc., which eventually closed in the midst of reports of violent abuse and cover-ups. Nancy Smith suggested that it was Sembler who convinced Adelson that challenging Florida’s Amendment 2 should be a fight he could use his vast resources to win.

And fight Adelson has. In particular by using misleading television ads. Rather than focusing on get out the vote efforts and answering real questions, Amendment 2 supporters have had to divert resources to publish a response in the Miami Herald blog to refute obnoxiously misleading claims, such as Amendment 2 will allow children to purchase marijuana without parental permission.

This is the sort of tactic that Adelson uses to further his agendas. As Kirk pointed out, Adelson knows that once people think a lie is truth, many will never believe it is false. Kirk gives the example of 38 percent of Americans still believing that Saddam Hussein funded the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Ultimately, Amendment 2 may no longer hang in the balance because of Adelson’s shenanigans. For all intents and purposes, Amendment 2 could be dead. Amendment 2 was inspired by compassion and the idea that sick people should be able to choose their own treatment. Now, thanks to the personal whim of one wealthy man with an opinion, these ideas may have to wait for another election year with another fight against big money like Adelson’s.

Indeed, political advertising and groups like Drug Free Florida affect a lot more in society than just the marijuana industry. But for investors looking to get involved in newly legitimized markets around the country, Sheldon Adelson’s nearly single-handed opposition illustrates just how fragile the industry’s platform can be.

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