By Dara Kam - Authors of Florida's voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana are blasting proposed rules to regulate the cannabis industry.
The proposed rules, released Tuesday by state health officials, would essentially maintain current vendors' stranglehold on the medical marijuana industry —- poised to become one of the nation's top money-makers —- by applying current Florida laws and rules to the constitutional amendment approved in November.
"The rule is basically ignoring the text of the constitutional amendment at almost every point of the way," Ben Pollara, campaign manager of the political committee backing the amendment, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
While medical marijuana was already a legal treatment for terminally ill patients in Florida, Amendment 2 authorized marijuana for a much broader swath of patients. More than 70 percent of voters supported the amendment, after a similar proposal narrowly failed to capture the requisite 60 percent approval two years earlier.
But applying current regulations to Amendment 2 —- which includes specific requirements for how the amendment should be implemented —- is wrong, Pollara insisted.
Of special concern to the amendment's authors, the proposed rule would give authority to the Florida Board of Medicine —- and not individual doctors —- to decide which patients qualify for the marijuana treatment.
The amendment allows doctors to order medical marijuana as a treatment for patients with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis.
The ballot language gives doctors the power to order marijuana for "other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient."
In contrast, the proposed rule would limit the unspecified conditions to those "determined by the Florida Board of Medicine," something Pollara called the regulation's "single most problematic" component.
"This is not one of those things that is up for interpretation by a court or anyone else," Pollara said.
Among other issues, the proposed rule would maintain the state's current cap on marijuana vendors, limited now to seven licensed "dispensing organizations," to treat an estimated 500,000 patients who would be eligible under Amendment 2.
While the proposed language may be amenable to the handful of operators already doing business in the state, the plan is anathema to those hoping to gain entree into Florida under Amendment 2's expansion of the industry.
"It looks like the Department of Health is protecting the existing monopolies. I hope the Legislature chooses to act in creating a free market system. The Legislature has a chance to change that," said Ron Watson, a lobbyist who represents AltMed, a Sarasota-based company founded by former pharmaceutical industry executives who have obtained a medical marijuana license in Arizona and are seeking one in Florida.
The health department will hold public hearings to take input on the rule during the second week of February, with meetings in Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee.
Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said state officials "look forward to receiving input from all interested stakeholders" about the proposed rule.
"That's why we're having the five public meetings," supplemented by the ability to provide comments online, she said.
"We look forward to everybody's contributions," Gambineri said.
Sen. Rob Bradley, who shepherded the state's medical-marijuana laws during the 2014 and 2016 legislative sessions, said he intends to release a new measure as early as this week.
"I interpret the actions today from the department as a beginning point, a foundation from which to build the medical cannabis system that we're going to have in the state of Florida," Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told The News Service of Florida. "I would caution everyone not to overreact to the actions of the department. You have to start somewhere."
Amendment 2 may have forced health officials to move forward with a proposed rule before the Legislature weighs in. It gives health officials until July 3 to finalize regulations to implement the constitutional change.
"That's the law. We have to follow the law," Gambineri said.
By Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster - More patients might be eligible for medical marijuana under Amendment 2, but a preliminary draft of new rules doesn’t appear to allow for immediate growth in the industry to meet demand.
On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health released the preliminary text of proposed rule development. The release comes ahead of five public hearings schedule for early next month, giving Floridians a chance to weigh in on the agency’s rules and regulations governing the state’s medical marijuana program.
But the update appears to do little to establish new rules, instead creating a system that could bring new patients into the state’s existing medical pot program.
“Any proposal which seeks to mold the spirit of Amendment 2 into the narrow and flawed law on the books today should be rejected, and a more comprehensive strategy must take priority. The people of Florida overwhelmingly voted for a new direction in medical marijuana, and we must heed the will of the voters,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican. “I will support no bill, nor any rule, that maintains the established state sanctioned cartel system we have today, and I urge my colleagues to join me in proposing a free market solution for Florida.
Under the proposed rule, only patients with one of 10 specific medical conditions, like HIV/AIDs or cancer, are eligible for medical marijuana. The rule does allow for use, as long as the Florida Board of Medicine identifies which debilitating conditions it can be used for.
That’s contrary to the ballot language, which allowed physicians to order medical marijuana for a patient for if they believe “the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”
“The proposed rule issued today by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) stands in direct contradiction with Article X, Section 29 of the Florida Constitution, the expressed intent of the authors of that section, and the will of the overwhelming majority of voters who approved the amendment,” said Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for the United for Care campaign. “If DOH’s rule is implemented as written, it will be in clear violation of Florida law.”
The proposed rule also requires patients, physicians, medical marijuana treatment centers and caregivers to be registered in state’s online Compassionate Use Registry; and requires medical marijuana treatment centers to follow the same record keeping, security, product testing, and other safety standards currently spelled out in state law and rules.
“I believe the Department is being appropriately cautious and awaiting the Legislature’s direction,” said Taylor Patrick Biehl, a lobbyist at Capitol Alliance Group who represents the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida. “The eligible patient population grows significantly under Amendment 2 — potentially tenfold. I’m confident that both the Department and the Legislature recognize the need to create affordable, safe and accessible medicine to the deserving patients.”
The preliminary rule also states all medical marijuana treatment centers, which under new rules would be the same as a dispensing organization, must go through the same “approval and selection process” outlined in existing law. Those organizations are also “subject to the same limitations and operational requirements” currently outlined in state law.
That rule means the seven nurseries currently authorized to grow, process and sell medical marijuana will have the corner on the market. Those nurseries are already growing the low THC cannabis authorized under a 2014 state law.
There is potential for more dispensing organizations to come online in the future, but not until 250,000 qualified patients register with the compassionate use registry.
The ballot initiative gives the Department of Health six months after the amendment goes into effect to write the rules governing medical marijuana. The amendment went into effect Jan. 3.
“The legislature has demonstrated a willingness and desire to implement this amendment in a reasonable manner that respects the plain language of the constitution, and reflects the mandate of the electorate,” said Pollara. “Why DOH would choose to engage in a policymaking exercise which ignores both the law and the role of the legislature in implementing the law is a mystery. Perhaps the actions of DOH shouldn’t surprise, given their history of incompetence in the administration of Florida’s medical marijuana laws.”
A spokeswoman for the health department said in an email to FloridaPolitics.com that the agency “initiated the rulemaking process as directed by Amendment 2.” She went on to say the state agency looks forward to “receiving input from all interested stakeholders through the open and transparent rulemaking process.”
The Legislature has indicated it will tackle Amendment 2 during the 2017 Legislative Session. Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, is expected to carry the medical marijuana bill in the House. And last week, the House Health Quality subcommittee held a two-hour meeting where experts, including Christian Bax with the Office of Compassionate Use, participated in a panel discussion on the implementation.
The workshops are open to the public, and anyone can comment. The meetings will be held:
— 2 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Duval County Health Department, 900 University Blvd. North in Jacksonville
— 10 a.m. on Feb. 7 at Broward County Health Department, 780 SW 24th Street in Fort Lauderdale
— 9 a.m. on Feb. 8 at the Florida Department of Health, Tampa Branch Laboratory, 3602 Spectrum Blvd.
— 6 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Orange County Health Department, 6102 Lake Ellenor Drive in Orlando; and
— 4 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Room 148 in Tallahassee.
Those who can’t attend in person, can offer public comment on the Department of Health website.
Read the article here: http://floridapolitics.com/archives/230444-doh-begins-amendment-2-rule-making
John Morgan, Chairman at United for Care, announces win in an email.
Nearly 4 years. Two elections. Over 2 million petitions from Florida voters. $8 million of my money. 18,238 donations from 8,287 of supporters
like you. Over $10 million spent against us, fighting compassion.
This is it. WE did it. YOU did it.
Hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians will now benefit from this law, and soon.
This was never about winning an election, although that's exactly what we did tonight. The election was a means to an end. The end was always, always always delivering compassion to those who could benefit, those desperate for the relief medical marijuana can bring.
I'm a superstitious guy. My pre-election ritual involves taking a long walk on the beach with my wife and spending Election Day and night at home.
Our campaign manager, Ben Pollara, has his election traditions too. He gets Chinese takeout with his wife the night before. Last night he sent me a picture of his fortune cookie. It read:
The will of the people is the best law.
I couldn't agree more.
The People spoke tonight.
For almost four years I've been telling you two things.
One. Compassion is coming.
Tonight, I also have two messages for you.
Compassion is HERE!!!!
And, I will always deliver this message:
Yes on 2
MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS SUPPORT MEDICAL MARIJUANA
(Miami, FL) – United for Care published a list of 102 medical professionals to its website. The list includes practicing physicians, retired physicians, ER nurses, home-health nurses, clinical psychologists and other medical professionals from throughout Florida.
Ben Pollara, Campaign Manager, stated, “Our opposition has, for years, made the false claim that medical professionals are against medical marijuana and Amendment 2. In fact, there is a large number of medical professionals and associations that are openly supporting medical marijuana and want this to pass. Many, many others support the measure and are not ready to comment publicly, as this first group has."
- Andrew E. Hano, DO., St Petersburg, Hematology-oncology
- Anthony J. Hall, MDCM, FACS, FAANS., Lauderhill, neurological surgery
- Richard Sabates, Delray Beach, Family medicine and pain management
- Jose Foradada, Tampa, Pediatric Neurology Specialist
- David Duncan, Cape Coral, Paramedic
- Jose A. Colindres, Broward/Palm Beach County, Pediatrician and Neonatologist
- Abner Martin Landry III, Largo, MD, FACR, Interventional Pain Specialist
- Jeffrey Kamlet, MD., Miami, Addiction Specialist
- Bernard Cantor, MD., Weston, Gynecology and Obstetrics (retired)
- Selim Benbadis, Tampa, Neurologist and Neurosurgeon
- Gregory Gerdeman, PhD., St Pete, Biology and Pharmacology
- Juan Sanchez-Ramos, Tampa, Neurologist
- Anne Morgan, MD., Palm Beach Gardens, Family Medicine
- Clifford Selsky, Ph.D., MD., Orlando, Palliative Care Pediatrician and Pediatric Oncology and Hematology
- Jeffrey Milley, St. Pete Beach, Registered Pharmacist
- Joseph Rosado, MD., Sanford, Primary Care Physician
- Kathryn Limper, Tampa, RN BSN
- Sasha Parker, Fort Lauderdale, Nurse
- Nicole Tracey, Fort Myers, RN OCN
- John H. Merey, MD., West Palm Beach, Ophthalmologist
- Ray Bellamy, MD., Tallahassee, Orthopedic Surgeon
- Carol L. Roberts, MD., Tampa, Integrative Medicine ABIHM
- Stephen Blythe, Melbourne, Family Physician
- Kathryn Lotspeich Villano, MD., Miami, Internal Medicine (retired)
- Jason Sturtsman,Vero Beach, B.A.E., Ed.S., School Psychologist
- César Rexach, Kissimmee, RN, MSN., Health Care Education
- Silvia Betancor, MD., Miami, Internal medicine
- Brenda Valdez, Live Oak, RN, Home Health
- Luis Galano-Lavin, Palm Coast, Family Medicine/Urgent Care
- Maria McConchie, Fort Lauderdale, Nurse Anesthetist
- Debbie Johnson, Orlando, RN, CHPN, Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse, Education
- Caroline Faxas, Hallandale, Board Certified Acupuncture Physician, Herbalist
- Tracy Christian, Palm Beach, Compounding Pharmacist, Pharmacy Owner
- Robert H Dudley, MD., Delray Beach, palliative and hospice care
- Ike Okeke, Tampa, Pharmacist
- Tammy Lettieri, Deerfield Beach,Physical Therapist
- Jonathan King, Jacksonville,RN
- Michelle Weiner, DO, MPH., Hollywood, Interventional Pain management / physical medicine and rehabilitation
- Megan King, Jacksonville ,RN
- Lisa Otero, Altamonte Springs , RN,
- Jeanne DeSilver, Jacksonville ,RN Retired,
- David Berger, MD., FAAP., Pediatrician, Owner and Medical Director, Wholistic Pediatrics and Family Care
- Elsie Eten, Safety Harbor, RN Retired,
- Linda Claassen, Deland, Hospice RN,
- Michael Bean, Melbourne, RN, CEN,
- Michelle Lynn Collier, RPh., Winter Garden, Clinical pharmacist
- Michael Dziubek, Sarasota, RN
- Terri P. Kelly, Tarpon Springs, RN, Oncology Research Auditor
- James F. Jones, Amelia Island, Acupuncture Physician
- Diane Loo, Miami, RN, Certified Wound Care Nurse
- Dennis Howard, Venice, Retired RN 03’, Critical Care Nurse
- Shannon Perez, Coral Gables, RN, Critical Care Nurse
- Marty Landy, Largo, MD FACR
- Patrick Criss, Kennesaw, GA., D.C., B.S. (Licensed In Florida and Georgia)
- Richard Bolin, Eustis, ER RN
- Anthony M. Walker, Hollywood, R.N.
- Don Vliegenthart, Melbourne, Nonoperative Orthopedics and Pain Management
- Clyde Pence, Pensacola, Nephrologist
- Robert V. Siegel, Fort Walton Beach ,General Physician
- Kathaleen Davis, Ft. Myers, Psychiatric Nurse, Certified Hospice and Wound Care
- Leonarda Duran,MD, Miami, Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist
- J.D. Gold, PhD., Summerfield, Clinical Psychologist
- Scott Nations, Largo, Registered ER Nurse
- Elizabeth Kostelnick, Crystal River, RN
- Geena Palank, Stuart, RN BSN
- Michelle Backus, Sebring, RN
- Sasha Parker, Fort Lauderdale, RN/Educational Director Esthetic Skin Institute
- Liva Jacobs, Miami, RN
- Joy S. Graham, MD., Palm Beach Gardens, Anesthesiologist
- Alisa Fuller, Orlanda, RN BSN
- Maria Medina Capote, MD., Miami, pediatrician
- Jerry Capote, MD., Miami, pediatrician
- Shannon Carnley, Bartow, RN
- Justin Sellers, Orlando, Radiologic Technologist, CT Scan and MRI Certified
- Cesar Rexach, Kissimmee, Retired RN MSN
- Andrew Margileth, Miami, Pediatric Dermatologist
- Charles Montgomery, Lakeland, RN
- Steven Bowman, Clearwater, MD of Internal Medicine
- Donna Lahey, Marathon, Clinical Laboratory Technologist
- Barry Apfel, Boca Raton, Registered pharmacist
- Jonathan Daitch, MD., Fort Myers, Pain management
- Rachel Bjornstad, Pensacola, Medical Technologist
- Nancy Barstow, Venice, RN
- Lawrence Schiffman, DO., FAOCD., Doral, dermatology
- John W. Pate, Fountain ,RN
- Tina McBride, Punta Gorda, RN
- Jim Funk, Gainesville, ARNP (retired)
- Andrew Sutherland, Orlando, Doctor of Chiropractics
- Pam Pirraglia, RN, CCM, CDMS; Nurse Case Manager
- Purvin Shah, DO, Jacksonville, Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine & Critical Care Medicine
- Stephanie Smithgall, Callahan, RN
- Cyndi Christine, Port Orange, RN (retired)
- Yolanda C. Leon, Psy.D., ABPdN - Tampa/Gainesville, Neuropsychologist, Clinical Psychologist, School Psychologist, Pediatric Neuropsychology
- Justin Davis, M.D., Gainesville, Family practice, alternative and integrative medicine
- Tricia Gibbs, Sarasota, Medical assistant
- Eyad Alsabbag, M.D., Brooksville, Pain management
- Bill Hadley, Tampa, RN
- Valerie Pasqualini, Del ray, RN and risk manager
- Peter A. Radice, MD, FACP, FAAHPM., Tampa, Supportive Oncology, Palliative Care
- Michael Uphues, DO, Naples, Family medicine
- Linda Colindres, St. Pete, RN
- Bruce Alperstein, MD., Milton, internal medicine
Support is growing for Amendment 2 and the campaign to see an expanded medical marijuana program in Florida is anounces it with press release.
Press Release: Florida Times-Union, Ft. Myers News Press Endorse Amendment 2; Both Were Opposed in 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2016
CONTACT: BIANCA GARZA
Third newspaper to change endorsement from 2014
(Miami Beach, FL) -- This weekend the editorial boards of two major Florida daily newspapers - the Florida Times-Union and the Ft. Myers News-Press - urged their readers to vote "yes" on Amendment 2. Both papers' editorial boards had opposed Amendment 2 in 2014.
The Times-Union's editorial is titled, "An improved medical marijuana amendment deserves support." They say the 2016 amendment is "better crafted" and cite the unanimous decision from the Florida Supreme Court as proof. They also note the amendment "was crafted with the abuses of pill mills in mind so there is an extra step for approval," and it makes "clear that physicians who abuse the law still are liable for current malpractice laws."
The News-Press said they support Amendment 2 to, "help those patients dealing with severe pain brought on by disease and other severe ailments." They note that the definition of who qualifies under the law has been made "more specific" and that "A parent's written consent is required in order for children to use the drug and caregivers must have appropriate background checks."
The Bradenton Herald editorial board declared its support for medical marijuana in February, and was the first newspaper to change its position from 2014. To date, 11 large daily newspapers in Florida have issued endorsements on Amendment 2; 9 of 11 have told readers to vote "yes."
Links to 2016 editorial board endorsements:
MEDICAL MARIJUANA AMENDMENT POLLING NEAR 80% IN RECENT SURVEY
(Miami Beach, FL) -- In a survey conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research on behalf of United for Care, likely Florida voters favor Amendment 2 - "Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions" - by a margin of 77%-20%. Anzalone conducted a similar survey for United for Care in June, 2014 in which the previous version of Amendment 2 received 69% support. The medical marijuana amendment ultimately received 58% in the last election, just shy of the 60% that Florida law requires for passage.
Kevin Akins, of Anzalone Liszt Grove, said of the recent polling, “Voter support for medical marijuana in Florida is stronger than ever. A broad and diverse coalition of voters across age, racial, and gender lines support Amendment 2 by a winning margin."
Indeed, the survey showed only 3% undecided. Other recent polls have shown similarly small levels of undecided voters on this issue.
United for Care campaign manager, Ben Pollara, said, "I'm obviously pleased at these levels of support, but I'm also not surprised. The notion of allowing medical decisions to be made by doctors and patients, not politicians, is simply not controversial. Floridians are compassionate and they know that marijuana can help alleviate suffering.”
“The 2016 ballot language is also stronger and addressed a number of concerns that some voters expressed previously. It was approved unanimously by the supreme court, and we’re seeing a broader coalition supportive of passage than before,” said Pollara.
Respondents to United for Care's poll were read the complete ballot title and summary for amendment 2 - "Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions" - that will appear on Florida's 2016 general election ballot, then asked if they would vote "yes" or "no" on the amendment. The poll was conducted July 17-21 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. The poll included bilingual dialing, and 46% of the poll was among cell phone completes, while 39% of the poll was among cell phone-only households.
For press inquiries please contact Bianca Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Powered by over 14,000 volunteers, United for Care is the largest organization in Florida fighting for a sensible medical marijuana law. United for Care is a non-partisan campaign with an on-the-ground presence across the state.
Medical marijuana will be legally for sale next week, but it is not a time to celebrate or stop working.
While it is technically accurate medical marijuana will be "available" next week for purchase in Florida—due to some limited bills passed by the legislature—the reality is that all but a few who should have access (and would under Amendment 2) will still find themselves without it. The limitations and constraints of the laws are so great that very few doctors can currently recommend medical marijuana, and virtually no patients will actually be able to buy it.
Paraphrasing John Morgan... That's just f***ing stupid.
Meanwhile, our opponents are pouring money into their campaign to try to make it so these patients NEVER have access. (Fight back here.)
Amendment 2 remains the ONLY way to secure medical marijuana, with no fear of arrest or imprisonment, for the hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from a variety of serious, debilitating conditions and illnesses. It also provides a regulatory environment that will make sure doctors can legally recommend marijuana to their patients.
Current law, with an exception for terminally ill patients, allows solely for "low-THC Cannabis". The vast preponderance of science, medicine and anecdote say that THC, the chemical that gets a person "high", is also the component that brings much of the plant's medicinal benefits.
So yes, marijuana will be on sale next week in Florida. But few will qualify, fewer still will be able to find a doctor to make the order, and those few who can may not be helped by what they purchase.
If sick and suffering Floridians are ever to truly see relief through medical marijuana, voters must approve Amendment 2 this November.
- Ben Pollara
United for Care
United for Care is the largest organization advocating for the passage of Amendment 2, "Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions."
The organization's Campaign Manager, Ben Pollara, had this to say about the Senate's decision, "Today the Senate agonized over, before finally passing, SB 460, which supposedly expands the number of eligible medical marijuana patients in Florida. Unfortunately, because of the persistent ineptitude of the state legislature, there are presently zero eligible medical marijuana patients in the state. The bill's passage today is merely more lipstick on the pig that is Tallahassee's failed 'medical marijuana' law. Sick and suffering Floridians will only see relief by approving Amendment 2 in the November elections."
Public Policy Polling states, "It looks like there's a good chance the second time will be the charm when it comes to getting a medical marijuana initiative passed in Florida. 65% of voters say they'll vote for one this fall to only 28% who are opposed, passing the 60% threshold with some breathing room. There's bipartisan support for the measure with Democrats (75/18), independents (70/22), and Republicans (53/40) all expressing their favor for it."
See all results here.
Bradenton Herald Endorses Amendment 2; Had Opposed Medical Marijuana in 2014 Election
(Miami Beach, FL) - In a surprising about-face from their previous opposition to the 2014 medical marijuana constitutional amendment, the editorial board of the Bradenton Herald endorsed Amendment 2 for the 2016 election. This is the second Florida newspaper to endorse Amendment 2 in the last week, after the Miami Herald did so on February 11, 2016. (The Miami Herald endorsed amendment 2 in 2014 as well.)
The Bradenton Herald’s editorial scathingly critiqued the Florida legislature’s inaction on the issue of medical marijuana, beginning the piece by saying, “Legislators are once again abdicating their responsibilities on the issue of medical marijuana.” They go on to call lawmakers “tone deaf”, accuse them of “ignoring citizens”, and chide Tallahassee politicians for failing to “get [their] act together”.
In their endorsement of the 2016 constitutional amendment, the editorial states that, “The new language resolves all the objectionable provisions of the flawed 2014 initiative.” It goes on to call the amendment, “much improved with various clarifying revisions.”
United for Care Campaign Manager, Ben Pollara, praised the editorial, “The Bradenton Herald gets it right: Florida needs a comprehensive medical marijuana law, and the inaction of Tallahassee politicians leaves us no other options but to amend the Florida constitution. We are honored to have the endorsement of the Herald’s editorial board.”