It’s a Close Money Race in Florida

Published on September 16, 2016 · Last updated October 20, 2022
Aerial view of St. Petersburg, Florida at Tampa Bay

California legalization advocates may enjoy a 60-to-1 advantage over their opponents in the fundraising race, but the contest in Florida is much tighter. Recent state campaign finance records reveal heavy hitters on both sides have thrown huge amounts of cash into the debate.

As of Sept. 9, the pro-legalization Yes on 2 campaign, a.k.a. United for Care, has raised $3,988,512. Opponents, under the No on 2 banner, have socked away $2,862,811.

Several noteworthy donations stand out during a quick glance through Florida’s state campaign finance database, especially those to the opposition’s PAC, the Drug Free Florida Committee.

This list included a donation by Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who donated $1 million to the opposition. Adelson, a major prohibitionist, isn’t afraid of throwing his money into a political fight. His $5 million donation helped defeat medical marijuana legalization in Florida back in 2014.

Joining Adelson on the opposition list is Carol Jenkins Barnett, heiress of Publix, Florida’s largest supermarket chain. Jenkins Barnett boasts a net worth of $1.72 billion and made a donation of $800,000 to the drug-free PAC. Also on the list: Mel Sembler, the former U.S. ambassador to Italy, who donated $1 million to the PAC.

The biggest donor in support of Amendment 2 in Florida is—no surprise—the Morgan Firm, an Orlando-based law firm primarily focusing on immigration law. Since last year, the firm has made 28 separate donations to date totaling of $2,741,971 dollars. John Morgan, lead attorney at the firm, donated 80 percent of the funds needed to get medical marijuana on Florida’s ballot.

Another top contributor to yes campaign was Coral Cables resident Barbara Stiefel, a member of the family that founded Stiefel Laboratories, the skin care giant purchased by GlaxoSmithKline in 2009 for $3.6 billion. Stiefel has donated around $245,000 toward medical marijuana legalization. Drug Policy Action, the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, donated $110,000 to the cause.

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Gage Peake
Gage Peake
Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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