The decision to spend $63,200 in state funds preparing drug warriors to fight the statewide initiative proposing the legalization of marijuana as medicine came from the highest reaches of Florida state government. So said Terry Hensley, executive director of the Drug-Free America Foundation, the St. Petersburg-based group that put together the conference in Orlando on May 27 and 28, which effectively barred pro-pot advocates.
But Orlando Weekly wanted to hear this from the source. It took a week, but representatives from the state Department of Community Affairs finally confirmed that Gov. Lawton Chiles called for the expense in response to a request from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. FDLE received the grant and turned the money over to Hensley's group to cover expenses, including 300 rooms at the ritzy Adam's Mark Hotel.
The Coalition Advocating Medicinal Marijuana was formed to gather signatures to put the issue -- which has passed in California and Arizona -- to a statewide vote, and state laws restrict the use of public funds to promote political agendas. Yet, "There was not consideration of it being a political issue," says spokeswoman Angela Scharwath.
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