Planned Publix Protest Draws Support, Ridicule

protestMedical marijuana proponents are planning to gather at Publix Supermarkets’ Lakeland headquarters on Saturday to protest a donation by former board member Carol Jenkins Barnett to an organization opposing their cause. Online reaction to the protest ranged from support to ridicule.

A Facebook event invites  supporters to march on the headquarters, 3300 Publix Corporate Parkway, next Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. to protest a $800,000 donation to Tallahassee-based Drug Free Florida Committee, which is leading opposition to a medical marijuana constitutional amendment on Florida’s Nov. 8 election ballot.

The donation from the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust brings the group’s fundraising total to $8.1 million, FloridaPolitics.com reported. The Barnett family trust gave the organization $540,000 in three donations in 2014 to help its effort against a medical marijuana amendment on that year’s ballot; that measure was supported by 57.62 percent of the voters, failing to get the required 60 percent needed to pass.

Barnett, 59, announced last month she is leaving the Publix board of directors after having been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She plans to retain her duties on the board of Publix Supermarket Charities, which she has led as chairwoman and president.

The Facebook post announcing the protest calls on supporters to boycott Publix stores. The protest is hosted by: Dane Powell, whose Facebook profile says he studies at East West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota; Tracy Penokie of St. Petersburg, an organizer of Food Not Bombs and March Against Monsanto; and Greg Jones, “acupunk” at St. Pete Community Acupuncture.

“Publix: while you push your pharmaceuticals from every corner of our neighborhoods, yet fund organizations such as Drug Free Florida Committee there are people in need,” the Facebook post says. “There are people dying because of (Barnett’s) push of money towards a lobbying giant with backwards ideas. We will not standby and watch you oppose a step in the right direction.”

The post has generated dozens of comments from supporters and detractors. Some who support the protest suggest that medical marijuana could help alleviate the Alzheimer’s Barnett has been diagnosed with. Others say the opposition to medical marijuana is guided by business concerns at a time when Publix has announced it’s expanding its pharmacy operations.

On the other side, several people say that a protest at a remote location where few people work on the weekend will be ineffective, and others point out that the donation is not a corporate gift from Publix but from Barnett’s private charity.

Here are some of the comments: