TALLAHASSEE — An anti-drug group opposed to medical marijuana is helping craft Florida laws on pot’s expanded use — a cause its founders tried and failed to defeat during last year’s elections.
The St. Petersburg-based Drug Free America Foundation is one of several anti-drug groups tied to conservative financiers Mel and Betty Sembler that opposed constitutional amendments legalizing medical marijuana in 2014 and 2016. The Semblers, who founded Drug Free America, gave $1 million for a political committee called Drug Free Florida, which fought against last year’s amendment that provided greater access to the drug.
Yet despite 71 percent of voters supporting medical marijuana, the foundation is having a say in the legislation that will determine the drug’s availability. Drug Free America’s executive director, Calvina Fay, lauded current legislation during a March meeting, thanking the House sponsor for including so many of the group’s suggestions in the bill.
The group and its lobbying arm, Save Our Society from Drugs, sent state lawmakers a list of suggestions that it says will prevent Florida’s medical cannabis program from being abused. About half of the 43 suggestions made it into HB 1397 pushed by the Florida House’s majority leader, Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.