A former member of the Board of directors of Publix, who is also the daughter of the grocery chain’s founder, has contributed $800,000 to a group trying to defeat a medical pot question on November’s ballot. So some supporters of marijuana for medical use are protesting at the corporate center of Publix in Lakeland Saturday.
WMNF News interviewed Tracy Penokie, a local activist with groups like Food Not Bombs St. Petersburg, who helping to organize the protest independent of any groups.
“We are protesting the corporate center in Lakeland. The reason why we picked that location–we actually did a poll and everybody thought that would be the best choice for us. The reason why we’re protesting is, of course, we all know about the $800,000 contribution that was made by Carol Jenkins and I understand that as a Chairwoman she has still stepped down, but, her family also still has their hands in the business. However, people want to say who gave the donation or what name was attached to it, is still officially a Publix donation. Publix pushes pharmaceuticals out of their neighborhood stores.
“Opiates are 80% of the prescriptions prescribed to Americans and as we know, opiates are responsible for addiction and also deaths. Cannabis, however, is not responsible for any kind of major side-effects at all, whatsoever. It’s proven to be a very helpful medicine and there’s no reason that I see or my allies see that it should not be legalized as a medicine.”
So, this $800,000 donation was made to the Drug-Free Florida committee, which is opposing the amendment that’s on the ballot to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Why do you support medical marijuana?
“I support medical marijuana because I’ve researched. I have seen children that were highly affected by seizures–there’s actually a story about a mother, Angela Brown who tried 18 different medications for her son’s seizures. He got hit in the head with a baseball one day and had had problems ever since then. She tried 18 medications, none of them worked and she tried giving her son cannabis oil, which was an illegal act for her, but, it worked for her son and she was still criminalized because of it. It’s not fair that something that’s a natural remedy, that’s a proven remedy, should be illegal when we’re out here selling opiates and other narcotics and those are OK.”
This $800,000 donation was made, not by Publix, but by a foundation for the ex-chair, as you mentioned. Do you think that your anger with the grocery chain is misplaced?
“I don’t feel it’s a misplaced anger. I don’t really feel like I’m angry at all, I just believe in voting with my dollars.
“The Jenkins family is a big part of Publix and all of them are on the same page as far as the amendment to fight against drugs. When she made that donation, she was using Publix money. Not only that, but, Publix has also had some other questionable practices, such as their stance on “fair food” or their stance on the environmental issues with Styrofoam and plastic. This is just basically the icing on the cake, for a lot of people, but, I don’t think that it’s misplaced anger at all. I think that Publix is right on board with that decision of the $800,000.”
Why don’t you tell our listeners when and where the protest is and how people can get involved if they support you or oppose.
“The protest will be this Saturday, at the Lakeland corporate center. There is an event on Facebook called Protest Publix. You can find all the information there. We’re doing carpools.
“If anybody disagrees-there’s been a lot of disagreements on the page–everybody’s entitled to speak their minds, there’s no censorship. We’ll be out there this Saturday, from 12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m..”
The Miami New Times reported, “the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust donated $800,000 July 14 to Drug Free Florida”
The protest is at the Publix corporate headquarters in Lakeland, 3300 Publix Corporate Pkwy, this Saturday from noon to 2:00 p.m.
Publix has not responded to an interview request.