Gambling mogul and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson has spent $2.5 million to oppose Florida’s medical marijuana ballot initiative, according to filings reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times. The major donation signals what may be the most moneyed opposition to a medical marijuana initiative yet. It also comes from a particularly unlikely source.
Adelson spent nearly $150 million to elect Republicans in 2012, but he has veered away from targeting cultural issues. He made his billions on gambling — considered a vice by most — and describes himself as “socially very liberal. Too liberal” — a refrain he has repeated over the years.
Adelson doesn’t appear to have staked a position on marijuana. But his contribution may have more to do with the governor’s race, which pits Gov. Rick Scott (R), a vocal opponent of the initiative, against former Gov. Charlie Christ (D), who announced his support in January. Polling shows support for medical marijuana is soaring among Floridians, and many have projected that the initiative could swing the outcome of the race, in large part by boosting youth turnout.
Adelson is backing a committee known as the Drug Free Florida Committee formed by Mel Sembler. That committee has raised a total of $2.7 million so far, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Sembler, who bankrolled opposition to Colorado’s recreational legalization initiative, once oversaw a chain of drug abuse treatment centers for teens, at which allegations have emerged of beatings, rape and psychological abuse. A separate opposition movement was also announced Tuesday by the Florida Sheriffs Association to defeat Amendment Two, with the slogan “Don’t Let Florida Go To Pot.”
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