Lakeland, Fla — August 6, 2016 — Florida’s most popular grocery store chain, Publix, was founded by George Jenkins in 1930. His billionaire daughter, Carol Jenkins Barnett, through her Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust, has recently donated $800,000 to the No on 2 campaign to derail Amendment 2 on the November 8, 2016, general election ballot. Earlier this year, Barnett had to step down from her post at Publix due to a diagnosis of Younger OnsetAlzheimer’s. The most recent other cash infusions for the campaign have come from Mel Sembler, the co-founder of drug treatment company Straight, Inc. to the tune of $1 million payable to the Drug Free Florida Committee.
The news is causing some Floridians to abandon their beloved Publix in favor of other grocers in their area. Robert Platshorn of Black Tuna fame is organizing a one-day boycott of Publix set for August 13, 2016.
Why Jenkins would risk the reputation of her father’s dynasty is unknown as the medical cannabis Amendment is wildly popular with Floridians and is expected to pass the required 60.1 percent needed. A collection of polls show an average of 69.38 percent approval by Florida voters. Most recently a Quinnipiac University poll found that 80 percent of registered voters said they would vote for the medical marijuana ballot initiative. We have always known Publix’s founder was a strong Christian as for decades, Publix would not open on Sundays. It was not until 1982 that the grocery chain began opening on Sunday due to its loss of market share. That move, along with many other strategic business decisions during the 1980s and early 1990s caused Publix to become the behemoth it is today.
The effort Barnett has backed would be comical if it weren’t so serious. Drug Free Florida’s propaganda scare tactics have been thoroughly discredited. Amendment 2 is an attempt to help patients in need because the Florida legislature has chosen not to act on the scale needed. Event with the passage of Amendment 2, it would not legalize recreational pot and there will still be plenty of illegal drug dealers to supply teenagers as passage would not affect the Law of Supply and Demand. It would help many children’s health, as well as adults — far more than under current Florida law. As we wrote on August 3, 2016, “At this point, only high-CBD, low-THC products are legally available; and they are only available to patients who are entered into the Department of Health database.”
It is unclear how this move by Carol Jenkins Barnett will affect the Publix brand and the sales of Publix. It is clear that the perception Barnett has started through this donation clouds the reputation of the business even though Publix did not make the donation directly. Effective Aug. 1, 2016, Publix’s stock price decreased from $43.95 per share to $41.90 per share. Publix stock is not publicly traded and is made available for sale only to current Publix associates and members of its board of directors. It would be interesting to see if Publix employees got together and opposed Barnett’s donation with a proposal to donate an equal or larger amount to the effort to get Amendment 2 passed this November.