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.
From: News Service of Florida
An orchid grower and investors spent nearly $800,000 to purchase property in Pinellas County they believed would give them a leg up in obtaining a highly sought-after medical marijuana license.
But one of the owners told a state judge Monday he now believes the business would have been better off keeping the cash, due to what his lawyers are calling a faulty rule proposed by state health officials.
Louis Del Favero Orchids is challenging the proposed rule, which is based on a law passed last year implementing a voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. The orchid grower argues the proposal fails to properly carry out the law, which includes giving preference for up to two medical marijuana licenses to applicants who own facilities that were used to process citrus.
The 2017 law also required health officials to issue 10 new licenses to applicants that meet certain requirements. Overall, the state has issued licenses to 13 operators, including a handful of new operators who met the criteria laid out in the 2017 law.
But it has not started accepting applications for four new licenses from potential vendors that may not have participated in the process before. Under the law, health officials have to give special preference for up to two licenses to applicants that “own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses and will use or convert the facility or facilities for the processing of marijuana.”
The citrus preference is the subject of one of several marijuana-related court challenges, including the one heard Monday by Administrative Law Judge R. Bruce McKibben.
Lawyers for Del Favero contend the proposed rule is flawed because it “seeks to grant a preference to a broader group of applicants than the statute permits.”
They say the rule gives preference to applicants who own “property” that was once used for citrus-processing purposes but would be used for processing medical marijuana. That’s different than the requirement in state law that preference be given to applicants who own “facilities” that were once used for citrus processing, lawyer Seann Frazier told McKibben.
After the law was passed last year, the orchid business paid $775,000 to purchase property in Safety Harbor that included a facility once used to process orange juice.
Ormond Beach lawyer David Vukelja, who owns 20 percent of Del Favero, told McKibben he and other investors closed on the property because they believed it would give them an edge when applying for a marijuana license.
“We looked at the statute,” Vukelja said. “We took it at face value.”
But according to the Department of Health, there’s nothing in the law that requires a “facility” to be a structure.
“There are three requirements. You have to own it. You have to prove it is or was used for canning, concentrating or otherwise processing. And you have to demonstrate how you will use that,” Courtney Coppola, deputy director of the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use, said Monday.
But Frazier asked if that meant that a tent, erected where a structure previously was used to process citrus, would make an applicant eligible for the citrus preference.
“You’re saying the facility is the tent. It could also be the space it’s in. So how they will convert that space. They could put a building on it,” Coppola said.
“The facility could be dirt. Unimproved dirt, that somebody could promise to put a $1 million processing plant on top of it, they would still meet the citrus preference. Is that true?” Frazier asked.
The health department’s interpretation of that part of the law met with approval from Mecca Farms, a Lantana-based citrus company that intervened in the challenge.
Mecca operates out of a 50,000-square-foot facility that sorts, grades and waxes fruit — processing activities that health officials said make Mecca eligible for the citrus preference.
Mecca’s lawyer, Glenn Burhans, chided Frazier, saying he found it “ironic” that the orchid grower’s attorney suggested the 2017 statute was designed to help a flailing citrus industry.
“He’s right. But that’s not his client,” Burhans said. “Let’s not kid ourselves and think that Del Favero is a longtime citrus company that has fallen on hard times. That’s just not the case.”
Mecca, which began citrus farming in Florida more than three decades ago, is challenging a different part of the rule that deals with the scoring of the applications, which Burhans said gives too much discretion to evaluators.
Del Favero, meanwhile, also is challenging a component of the rule that gives 35 additional points to the two highest-scoring applicants seeking the citrus preference. The extra 35 points — just a 3 percent bonus on top of the total 1,150 points available to all applicants — aren’t enough to make a significant difference, according to Del Favero.
Because applicants can receive up to 100 points for certified financial documents, Vukelja said the orchid company may have had a better chance of getting a license had its owners not invested the money in the old citrus plant.
“We took cash off a balance sheet in order to acquire an asset only to find out it’s a diluted asset that, at best, is worth 35 points out of 1,150 points,” he told The News Service of Florida after the meeting. “I’m sure I’m one of a long list of people who feels they’re being screwed by the Department of Health. Yeah, that thought has crossed my mind.”
Health officials’ definition of facilities “could be anything from a building to dirt,” Vukelja said.
“How dirt is a facility is beyond me,” he said.
McKibben did not indicate how he would come down on the rule challenge, but he agreed with Ed Lombard, a private lawyer who represents the health department, that the law was imperfect.
“The statute, as someone mentioned, was poorly written, and I totally agree,” he said.
By MARK WRAY • JUN 27, 2018
Florida has become the first state in the U.S. to see 100% adoption of a cashless payment solution for the state’s growing medical marijuana market.
The system is called CanPay. The company sees itself as a banking solution for cannabis dispensaries and customers. CEO Dustin Eide spoke on Wednesday’s First Coast Connect about how it works.
“It's free to use, highly secure and allows patients to make purchases without getting cash from ATMs,” said Eide of CanPay, which so far has been adopted in 100% of cannabis dispensaries in Florida.
“CanPay works on the ACH (Automated Clearing House) network instead of Visa or Mastercard services, Those cards have prohibited transactions on their network. So we used a banking network of complying financial institutions to build our own debit network that allows patients to download the CanPay app, set it up and link it directly to their checking account at any U.S. institution. When they go in to the dispensary or for delivery, in the Florida market, they can use CanPay and that money will transfer from the patients checking account to the dispensaries checking account, similar to any other debit card they might use.”
Additional information on CanPay is available here here.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida appeals court has reinstated a stay on smoking medical marijuana.
The state's 1st District Court of Appeal has ruled that the hold will remain in effect "pending final disposition of the merits of (a recent) appeal."
The Department of Health appealed to a higher court earlier this month after Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers upheld her May 25 ruling that the Florida Legislature's provision banning smokable medical marijuana is unconstitutional.
The state is fighting to keep the ban on smoking medical marijuana, saying it endangers the public health. Plaintiffs, however, say the original intent of the 2016 constitutional amendment that made medical marijuana legal was to allow smoking in private settings, therefore not endangering the public.
Judge Gievers agreed in her ruling, and ordered the state to draw up a plan to allow for smokable medical marijuana, saying the ban was causing undue harm to patients.
This is the second medical marijuana case that the 1st District is taking up. Gievers ruled on April 11 that a Tampa man -- Joseph Redner -- is entitled under state law to possess, grow and use marijuana for juicing.
Redner was prescribed juicing treatments from his doctor to prevent a relapse of Stage 4 lung cancer.