By Tom Angell
Tuesday’s election results were a mixed bag for partisans: Democrats regained control of the House, while Republicans extended their Senate majority.
But one clear winner in the midterm elections was marijuana.
Michigan voters approved a ballot measure making their state the first in the midwest to legalize cannabis.
Voters in several Ohio cities approved local marijuana decriminalization measures, and a number of Wisconsin counties and cities strongly approved non-binding ballot questions calling for cannabis reform.
Voters in Michigan approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational use of marijuana on Tuesday, and two other states — Missouri and Utah — endorsed medical marijuana laws. Voters in North Dakota didn’t partake, rejecting a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use.
There are now 33 U.S. states that have legalized marijuana to some degree, and recreational pot use is now legal in 10 states, along with Washington, D.C. But possessing, selling or using marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
Coming into the Nov. 6 vote, both Michigan and North Dakota already had medical marijuana laws in place. Utah and Missouri didn’t have far-reaching legislation on the books, though Missouri had lightened the potential penalties for first-time offenses.
Sunshine State News
By Kevin Derby
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., is calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to allow more companies to research how Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be used for medicinal purposes.
Noting that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency had approved plans for Tilray, a company based out of British Columbia, to import CBD and THC for studies on how to treat nerve pain, Curbelo called on the U.S. Department of Justice to get out of the way of domestic companies trying to do the same thing.
By Adam Wollner
Nearly two years after Florida voters approved the use of medical marijuana, Tallahassee needs to implement the policy more effectively, but state officials should not take the extra step of legalizing the drug completely.
That’s the view of the Florida Influencers, a panel of the state’s leading voices from across the political and policy spectrum. In a new survey, 85 percent said Florida officials should make it easier for qualifying patients to obtain medical marijuana, while 15 percent said they should not.
Tampa Bay Times - The Buzz
Marijuana use is on the rise in the United States. A federal drug survey released last month found half of American adults have tried marijuana once in their life, the high point of the last 20 years. As marijuana grows more ubiquitous, sentiments about the drug have shifted, too. More Americans than ever, 62 percent, believe marijuana should be legalized, according to Pew Research Center, a complete reversal from a decade ago.
Florida's next class of elected leaders will confront these changing attitudes. Will they do so from a position of personal experience?
Four of the 12 candidates acknowledged prior marijuana use, including the Democratic nominee for governor, Andrew Gillum. "Many years ago," his spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said. Gillum has advocated for legalizing marijuana and taxing it. So has Nikki Fried who is running on the platform of Cannabis, who responded, "Of course I have".
Five candidates said they have never smoked. Three wouldn't respond, all Republicans: gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, his running mate Jeanette Núñez and Ashley Moody, a candidate for attorney general. In a primary debate, DeSantis came out against legalization.
Tampa Bay Times - The Buzz
By: Adam C. Smith
TAMPA BAY, FL - This is the first election cycle where medical marijuana stands to be a significant issue for political campaigns. The medical marijuana advocacy group Empowering Wellness will host a bi-partisan conference in St. Petersburg Oct. 6 featuring marijuana friendly elected officials and industry representatives wanting to expand patient access to cannabis. Co-sponsors include U.S. Reps. Charlie Cris, D-St. Petersburg and Darren Soto, D-Orlando and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.
By: 10 News Staff
SARASOTA, Fla.—The medical cannabis dispensary opened by Alt-Med Florida off Fruitville Road in Sarasota will be the first of its kind. The dispensary, called Muv, will grow, extract and manufacture all its THC and CBD products right there. The company opened a similar dispensary in Apollo Beach last year and have another 23 planned.
Company officials said the staff wouldn’t be like what people would expect at a medical marijuana dispensary.
Like other dispensaries, you must consult with a doctor before being able to purchase medical marijuana products.
Learn more at www.altmedflorida.com
By Drew Wilson
Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist announced a new bill Wednesday that would allow veterans to be treated with medical marijuana without getting canned from federal government jobs.
Crist introduced H.R. 6589, also known as the “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act,” during a roundtable discussion with veterans and cannabis industry representatives in Largo.
“Medical marijuana is an issue of compassion, and in the veterans’ community, access is even more important as more and more veterans are turning to cannabis to address chronic pain and PTSD. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of veterans; however, private cannabis use even in states that have legalized medical marijuana is prohibited in these positions,” Crist said.
“Our bipartisan bill would protect federal employment for those in compliance with their state’s cannabis laws. Because our veterans shouldn’t have to choose between treatment options or job opportunities,” he continued.
Republican U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia, who is co-introducing the measure with Crist, added that “no one should face unemployment for choosing to pursue private legal medical treatment,” including federal workers, one-third of whom are veterans.
Crist’s email announcing the bill said it had already earned the backing of numerous marijuana advocacy organizations, including Americans for Safe Access, Florida for Care, Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association, NORML, Veterans Cannabis Coalition and the Weed for Warriors Project.
“Congressman Crist has been a strong ally in our fight to allow Florida patients access to medical marijuana and efforts to protect this access from federal interference. Florida for Care is proud to support his common-sense bill to protect employment of Floridians whose well-being depends on continuing medical marijuana treatment,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, and campaign manager of the successful 2016 campaign to approve medical marijuana in Florida.
“We applaud Congressman Crist’s leadership on this important issue as we continue working together to protect patients and strengthen the state’s medical marijuana system.”
“We applaud Congressman Crist for introducing a bipartisan bill to protect veterans’ treatment options. Surterra stands proudly beside the Congressman as he pursues medical cannabis reform in Congress so that our communities and local veterans can have access to safe and effective treatment options,” said Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann.
“We have a significant veteran community in Florida that deserves the highest quality, most consistent medical cannabis products available. We are proud to lead a company that seeks to improve the quality of our brave men and women’s lives through safe, natural means,” he continued.
By News Service of Florida
The brief argues the Legislature “considered important health and safety factors” when deciding to ban smoking, refuting an assertion made by a County Circuit judge that the amendment legalizing the drug in Florida recognized the right for it to be smoked in private.
Pointing in part to smoking-related health effects, Attorney General Pam Bondi's office on Friday filed a 57-page brief arguing that an appeals court should uphold a decision by the Legislature to ban smoking medical marijuana.
The brief, filed at the 1st District Court of Appeal, came as the state challenges a May ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who said the smoking ban violates a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.
The Legislature in 2017 passed a law to carry out the constitutional amendment and included the smoking ban. Prominent Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who heavily bankrolled the constitutional amendment, filed a lawsuit last year challenging the smoking ban.
Bondi's office Friday filed an initial brief in its attempt to overturn Gievers' ruling. The brief raised a series of issues, including arguing that the Legislature "considered important health and safety factors" when deciding to ban smoking.
"Notably, the Legislature considered evidence of the health hazards of smoking and concluded that smoking marijuana constitutes a harmful delivery method," the brief said. "Time and again during debate, elected members of Florida's Legislature emphasized that the amendment is exclusively about medicine, and that smoking is antithetical to good medicine. In considering these health-related factors, the Legislature reasonably determined that the harms caused by smoking — including harms to patients and those exposed to secondhand smoke — were ample reason to exclude smoking from the statutory definition of 'medical use.' The Legislature therefore acted under its general authority to regulate public health, safety, and welfare when it drew a reasonable line between the smoking of medical marijuana, and other delivery methods."
But in her May ruling, Gievers found that language in the amendment "recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places consistent with the amendment."
The "ability to smoke medical marijuana was implied" in the constitutional language "and is therefore a protected right," Gievers wrote.
Tampa Bay Times
John Morgan hints at ballot initiative for marijuana legalization
John Morgan on Tuesday said he’s “going to look at starting a fund” toward an initiative to legalize marijuana, including recreational use, on the 2020 ballot.
He has previously has been on the record supporting marijuana legalization. His latest tweets move him further in terms of personally promising a political solution.
The Orlando attorney and businessman, who was behind the 2016 constitutional amendmentallowing medical marijuana in the state, was tweeting in response to a Florida Politics tweet on an appellate court order.
The 1st District Court of Appeal earlier Tuesday denied a request for a case on the state’s marijuana smoking ban to be moved directly to the Supreme Court.
Morgan organized that lawsuit; Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the ban violates the amendment, and the state appealed.
“Maybe it’s just time for full legalization,” Morgan tweeted. “It would pass with flying colors!”
Marijuana has been legalized in nine states, the District of Columbia and, most recently, Canada. Twenty-nine states, including Florida, allow medical use of marijuana. The 2016 amendment was approved by 71 percent of voters.
Morgan already chairs a political committee, Florida For A Fair Wage, that seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot. It would Florida’s minimum wage to $10, effective Sept. 30, 2021, and then raise it $1 a year until it is $15 on Sept. 30, 2026.