The hundred people stuffing New World Landing Friday, Jan. 13, expecting to hear John Morgan announce his run for governor of Florida left disappointed.
But Morgan, the founder of Orlando-based Morgan & Morgan law firm and entrepreneur, did entertain the Tiger Bay Club audience with yarns about his life and straight talk about his political and religious beliefs.
Morgan is the defacto Democratic front-runner after the Saint Leo University Polling Institute showed in December that the colorful politico led all potential candidates in the 2018 race to replace Gov. Rick Scott with 20 percent of voters saying he was their top choice. Three candidates pulled five percent of the likely voters surveyed.
The attorney rose to prominence by leading the charge for Amendment 2 that legalized medical marijuana with 71 percent of the vote in the 2016 election. The vote made Florida the 26th state to legalize marijuana.
Morgan started his speech Friday by joking he would have rather brought Uncle John’s marijuana brownies for everyone to share at Pensacola Beach while listening to Jimmy Buffett music.
“I never thought about (running for governor) in my life,” said Morgan, who owns hotels, a bank, family attractions, such as WonderWorks in Panama City, about 1,000 acres of land, and law offices across the nation. He also develops shopping centers and runs the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
“It was the last thing I thought about. My son said, ‘Dad, why do you want to be a politician? Politicians are jokes.’ I started to think about it. Where could I do the most good for the most people?”
For someone undecided about whether to run for governor or push another Amendment — this time raising the minimum wage for working poor families — Morgan knows exactly where he stands on many pressing issues.
Morgan would abolish the Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Agriculture positions. “I’d rather take that money that I think is wasteful and pour it back into programs that help people.”
He would allow non-violent offenders the right to vote. “America incarcerates 18 times more people per capita than any country in the world. No. 2 is China,” Morgan said. “Why do we lock people up and ruin people’s lives over possession of marijuana?”
Morgan would support criminal justice reform. He said, “I have a passion for compassion.”
He supports teachers and said Florida needs Google-type higher education. “They are so overworked and underpaid,” Morgan said. “They’ve become a scourge. Now we can’t find teachers.”
Morgan opposes pharmaceutical companies. He told the crowd, “These drug companies are the crooks.”
Illegal immigration is another hot button with Morgan who supports people trying to live the American Dream.
“People say illegal immigrants are taking our jobs,” Morgan said. “That’s bullshit. They’re doing jobs none of us want to do. If you really want to do something about illegal immigrants, make it a third-degree felony and a $50,000 fine to employ them. We’re not going to do it. We kind of like this new economic slavery that we got. That’s reality, and it’s never going to change.”
Of course, he supports medical marijuana and related two personal stories about why he backed the statewide amendment a second time after it failed to garner 60 percent of the vote as required by less than two percent the first go round.
“I’ve seen it work,” Morgan said telling the story about his father, a smoker, who was dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD and emphysema. “He had a terrible appetite, terrible anxiety and just had trouble living.”
He explained his father opposed smoking marijuana because of his conservative political stance. However, one day Morgan said he visited his dad and found him sitting in front of a huge plate of pot roast and baby carrots and a Miller Lite.
“He had a huge grin on his face,” Morgan recalled. “The rest of the time he used marijuana to live.”
His brother Tim was paralyzed from the chest down and in extreme pain. Morgan said his brother at one point took seven Xanax a day to relieve his suffering. Finally, his brother smoked marijuana that took his pain away and allowed him to function. Morgan said his brother worked in his law firm for 25 years.
“I was moved by that,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he just wants to help people live with dignity.
“I’m not the most religious person, but I do try to live that life,” said Morgan, who ended his talk by quoting a Mother Teresa prayer. “I’ve been a hell raiser. I still am a hell raiser. But in my heart, I’m a good person.”
Will he be on the ballot in 2018 as a candidate for governor?
Maybe. Although Morgan admitted the lure of living in St. Barts in the winter and New Hampshire in the summer, plus enjoying his three grandsons makes it a difficult decision.