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Pro-Marijuana Group Gets $1M Boost

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The Greenscape Group
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Flickr

Supporters of a constitutional amendment that would broadly legalize medical marijuana in Florida received a $1 million boost this week from a political committee focused on similar initiatives in other states.
The committee, New Approach, is tied to the family of the late philanthropist Peter Lewis, the former head of Progressive Insurance who died in 2013 and who financed medical-marijuana proposals in Washington and Massachusetts. New Approach also was a major contributor to an Oregon initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in 2014.

It's the largest single contribution received by supporters of Amendment 2 and comes as the battle over the constitutional question heats up in advance of the Nov. 8 election.

On Friday, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who opposes the amendment, told reporters he was underwriting a television ad in the Tampa Bay area urging his constituents to vote "no" on the ballot proposal. Latvala, the incoming Senate appropriations chairman, appeared at a news conference in Tallahassee with former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell.

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan and his law firm have been the major financial backers of Amendment 2, which mirrors a similar proposal that voters narrowly rejected two years ago. So far this year, Morgan and his firm have contributed more than $2.6 million to People United for Medical Marijuana, which he also chairs.

Morgan is also paying for radio ads running statewide urging voters to support the amendment. Exactly how much he has spent on the ads has not yet been reported, and Morgan said he doesn't know what the total will be.

This week's contribution from New Approach came as the Drug Free Florida Committee — which played a key role in defeating the 2014 amendment — spent more than $1.8 million during the first three weeks of September to fight the initiative, with most of the money going to advertising.