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TAMPA BAY TIMES Editorial: Voter intent on medical marijuana ignored

The Florida Department of Health's first draft of rules authorizing medical marijuana falls far short of what is prescribed in the voter-approved constitutional amendment. State regulators are proposing only a limited expansion of Florida's existing program and an unwarranted restriction on which patients can access it. Amendment 2, approved by more than 70 percent of voters, legalizes marijuana for people with an array of ailments, and the state is obligated to craft a program that ensures access to it.
Before the constitutional change took effect Jan. 3, Florida allowed terminally ill patients to use full-strength marijuana and certain other patients to use a strain low in THC to alleviate pain and other symptoms. Seven growers are authorized to produce and sell marijuana for the entire Florida market. With the approval of Amendment 2, full-strength marijuana is legal for patients with several conditions specified in the ballot language, such as cancer, HIV, glaucoma and PTSD, or "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."

That means it should be up to a patient's doctor to determine whether marijuana would be an appropriate treatment. But the Department of Health's proposed rules say the drug should be legal only for the ailments specified plus those approved by the state Board of Medicine. Amendment 2 makes no mention of the Board of Medicine, and the rule that is ultimately adopted should conform with the clear intent of the amendment.

The proposed rules also stick with the current number of seven growers authorized to sell medical marijuana, even though Florida's market is poised to gain hundreds of thousands of customers. The rules don't allow separate entities to grow, produce and distribute marijuana products, adhering to the current "vertical integration" model that requires growers to be equipped to service the entire supply chain from seed to storefront. Legislation filed by Sen. by Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, goes a little further, requiring that five more growers be licensed within six months of there being 250,000 patients in the state. The Health Department's proposals maintain the status quo that stymies competition and growth, and Bradley's bill does not do enough to change that.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is set to file a bill that would loosen that stranglehold while still requiring sensible regulation. Brandes proposes creating four separate licenses — for growers that cultivate the plants, processors that produce and package the products, retailers that sell them and transportation companies that deliver them to patients. Companies could obtain one or all four licenses for a one-stop shopping business model. There would be no limit on the number of growers in the state, letting the market determine how many Florida can support. Doctors would decide whether patients should be certified to use medical marijuana. On the regulation side, processors would be required to make products that look like medicine — no gummy bears — and are sold in clearly labeled packaging. Smokable marijuana would be allowed.

As several counties and municipalities have implemented moratoriums on medical marijuana storefronts, Brandes' bill would cede considerable control to local governments to restrict the number and location of retail outlets. But it would prohibit a cap on delivery-only facilities that don't sell directly to the public. The broad concepts in Brandes' bill, which is supported by the Florida for Care advocacy group, would provide a sound foundation for an industry that Floridians clearly want.

By defaulting to the limited medical marijuana program already on the books in Florida, the Department of Health is not following the intent of Amendment 2. Florida needs a comprehensive rewrite of existing regulations that reflects the will of the voters.

Read the article here: http://cars.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-voter-intent-on-medical-marijuana-ignored/2311049

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MIAMI HERALD: Medical marijuana law starts to take shape in Florida Legislature

By Michael Auslen - Jacel Delgadillo is still waiting for her 5-year-old son Bruno to be able to use medical marijuana legally in Florida.

Bruno suffers from a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. When he started using cannabis, Bruno went from having hundreds of seizures a week to fewer than five. Though voters in November overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that eases access to medical marijuana, Delgadillo frets that lawmakers are reversing course, hashing out plans that would further limit access to the drug.

Seventy-one percent of voters approved the measure, but it's “something completely different” than what lawmakers are now considering, said Delgadillo, who lives in Miami.

She worries Florida’s laws will ban edibles and smoking the drug — so-called whole-plant use that she says voters expected to be legal. Caps on the number of businesses that can grow and sell the drug might limit the variety of cannabis available to her son, she said.

In recent weeks, the state Senate and the Florida Department of Health released proposals that would mostly keep control of the marijuana market in the hands of a few companies licensed to grow marijuana, process it and sell oils and pills to patients. Leaders in the Florida House, which have not yet released a plan, say they are inclined to do the same.

Instead of creating a whole new marijuana system, the Senate and health department proposed adding new patients to an existing, limited program passed two years ago. It allows terminally ill people to use full-strength marijuana and certain patients, including children with severe epilepsy, to use strains of cannabis low in the chemical THC, which causes a high.

Rules proposed by the health department ahead of public hearings across the state would allow only the seven currently licensed growers to produce and sell medical marijuana to the larger market. They also want to restrict marijuana’s use to a list of specific medical conditions including cancer and HIV and require that the state Board of Medicine approve any changes, though Amendment 2 gives doctors freedom to recommend the drug when they think it is appropriate.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, proposed allowing the current growers to run the market. But his bill (SB 406) requires that five additional growers be licensed within six months of there being 250,000 patients in the state.

The Florida House is thinking along similar lines, said Health Quality Chairman Cary Pigman, an ER doctor, but with a much more rapid expansion in the number and diversity of growers.

“I would imagine we’re going to get to over 100,000 [patients] pretty quickly,” Pigman, R-Avon Park, said. “I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand, and we’re going to see that expand pretty rapidly.”

So far, neither the state nor the Legislature has show interest in allowing businesses to specialize in growing, producing marijuana products or selling.

That might be OK in the beginning, said Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s former marijuana czar. But in the long run, it could be less efficient and give growers more influence in Tallahassee.

“I would expect to see better lobbying teams if you have only a few,” he said to a lobbyist-packed room in the state Capitol. “You will feel greater pressure.”

Critics worry the current growers may not be able to supply enough marijuana for a market that could expand from fewer than 2,000 patients now to hundreds of thousands of users under Amendment 2.

Ben Pollara, who managed the Amendment 2 campaign, said the health department’s rules are “in direct contradiction” of the state Constitution and that the Senate is off to “an encouraging start.” But he’s wary of laws limiting the number of growers and preventing companies from focusing only on growing, selling or extracting the chemicals to make cannabis oils and pills.

“You’re not going to have a diverse set of products for these patients,” he told the Herald/Times. “And the person or persons who might be best equipped to grow the best marijuana may not be the best equipped to do the best extractions.”

Read the article here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/health-care/article128686904.html

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FLORIDA POLITICS: House Health Quality panel hears from former Colorado pot czar

By Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster - The former Colorado marijuana czar encouraged Florida lawmakers to invest in public education as they begin discussions about implementing Amendment 2.

Andrew Freedman, the former director of marijuana coordination in Colorado, told the House Quality Subcommittee that the state should consider investing in public education, even before tax dollars derived from the medical marijuana industry starts rolling in. Freedman said his state waited until they received tax dollars, and officials were “surprised by what people didn’t know.”

The state spends between $8 million and $9 million a year on public education, which includes public education campaigns focused on driving while high. The state puts $12 million aside for curriculum in schools, and that money is used to help schools screen for high-risk students.

Public education, said Freedman, is “incredibly essential to the success of the program.”

Freedman’s testimony came during a two-hour panel discussion on medical marijuana. The discussion was the second in a series of meetings scheduled as the House begins the process of crafting legislation to implement Amendment 2, the medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues is expected to carry the bill in the House. Sen. Rob Bradley has already filed a bill the Senate’s version of the proposal.

Among other things, the Senate bill would expand the number of medical marijuana treatment centers, similar to what is currently called a dispensing organization, allowed to operate in the state.

Under Bradley’s proposal, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry.

The bill then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

Existing law does allow for some growth, authorizing the state health department to issue three more licenses once 250,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

The state currently has a vertical integration system in place, meaning the same company needs to grow, cultivate and sell the product. Freedman, who served as Colorado’s marijuana czar from 2013 until earlier this month, said Colorado started with a vertical integration system, with organizations having to grow at least 75 percent of what they are selling. While that remains the case with medical marijuana, Freedman indicated the state has moved away from that system when it comes to the recreational market.

Freedman said there are benefits to vertical integration. It allows the state to know who is doing business in the state, limits the number of licenses issued and the number of background checks required. But in the long run, Freedman said Colorado “didn’t see a big difference” when it came to vertical integration versus horizontal integration.

Lawmakers also heard from Miami Beach Chief Daniel Oates, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, and Lt. Col. Mike Thomas with the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, all of whom discussed concerns about safety and enforcement.

“Colorado produces the best marijuana in the world,” said Oates, who was representing the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “I think we want to avoid … a thriving black market (in Florida). And we believe very, very strongly everyone should know whether (someone) possesses it legally under a medical marijuana scheme.”

Earlier this month, the Department of Health initiated the process of developing rules for Amendment 2. Under the ballot language, the agency has until July 3 to create rules and regulations to implement the new medical marijuana law.

Read the article here: http://floridapolitics.com/archives/230981-house-health-quality-panel-hears-former-colorado-pot-czar

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FLORIDA LIVE: Senate Bill Proposes Less Restrictive Approach to Florida’s Medical Marijuana Regulations

By Dara Kam - A key senator Thursday released the Legislature’s first attempt at carrying out a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana, with the proposal calling for a growing number of marijuana licenses and making it easier for doctors to order the treatment for patients.

The bill by Sen. Rob Bradley, who was instrumental in passage of medical-marijuana laws in 2014 and 2016, came days after health officials published proposed regulations to implement the constitutional amendment, which received more than 71 percent approval from voters in November.

Under Bradley’s bill, the state could see another 20 marijuana operators — nearly quadruple the seven current licensed “dispensing organizations” — once the number of patients registered for the treatment reaches 500,000.

Christian Bax, director of the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use, told lawmakers last week he expects that many patients to be registered in a state database by the end of the year.

Bradley’s plan (SB 406) would also do away with a current requirement that doctors treat patients for at least 90 days before being allowed to order marijuana for them and would expand from 45 days to 90 days the amount of marijuana supplies patients can purchase. The legislation would also ban edible marijuana products “in a format designed to be attractive to children.”

Ben Pollara, campaign manager of the political committee that backed Amendment 2 in November, called Bradley’s effort “a stark contrast” to the rule proposed Tuesday by the Department of Health.

“It’s a good start toward implementing both the letter and the spirit of the constitutional amendment,” Pollara said in a telephone interview Thursday.
While the health department’s proposed rule appears to overlay requirements now in the Constitution onto current Florida law, Bradley’s legislation makes frequent references to the amendment, Pollara said.

“I appreciate the fact that Sen. Bradley’s bill actually respects that we’re implementing a constitutional amendment here,” he said.

The constitutional amendment allows doctors to order 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. Doctors also have 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.”

The rule floated by the health department would leave it up to the state Board of Medicine to decide which patients would qualify for treatment under the unspecified conditions, something Pollara objected to strenuously.

Bradley’s proposal does not include any language that would restrict doctors’ ability to decide for themselves if patients qualify for marijuana treatment. But his bill does include a definition of “chronic nonmalignant pain,” something not addressed in the amendment, as “pain that is caused by a debilitating medical condition or that originates from a debilitating medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that debilitating medical condition.”

“There is a question about how we handle generalized chronic pain. This clarifies that,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.

Under current law, doctors must complete eight hours of training before they can register patients for marijuana treatment. Bradley’s plan would cut the required training from eight to four hours.

Bradley’s bill would also allow the state’s seven dispensing organizations — currently licensed to grow, process and dispense non-euphoric marijuana for patients with epilepsy or cancer, and full-strength marijuana for terminally ill patients — to operate as “medical marijuana treatment centers” defined in the Constitution.

Under current law, health officials must authorize three new marijuana operator licenses — including one license for a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association — once 250,000 patients are registered in the state’s “compassionate use” database.

Bradley’s proposal also would require a member of the black farmers’ association to receive one of the highly sought-after licenses.

Under his plan, health officials would have to grant five more “medical marijuana treatment center” licenses once 250,000 patients are registered in the database; five more when that number reaches 350,000; another five after 400,000 patients are registered; and five more when the number reaches 500,000. His plan also would require five more licenses each time 100,000 more patients are registered after that.

“I don’t think it’s a significant enough expansion of licenses, nor a quick enough one to serve what’s going to be a quickly growing patient base,” Pollara said. “It’s not a perfect piece of legislation, but I think it’s a good start considering it’s the first bill released in either chamber.”

The number of licenses has been a thorny issue for the marijuana industry, but operators who currently have licenses aren’t complaining about the expansion included in Bradley’s bill.

“It appears at first blush he’s found a way to implement the will of the voters while balancing the needs of patient access and protecting patient safety,” Steve Vancore, who represents several licensed medical marijuana operators, said.

Read the article here: https://flaglerlive.com/103970/medical-pot-regulations-bradley

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NORTHWEST FLORIDA DAILY NEWS: Senator offers roadmap for carrying out marijuana ammendment

By Dara Kam TALLAHASSEE - A key senator Thursday released the Legislature's first attempt at carrying out a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana, with the proposal calling for a growing number of marijuana licenses and making it easier for doctors to order the treatment for patients.

The bill by Sen. Rob Bradley, who was instrumental in passage of medical-marijuana laws in 2014 and 2016, came days after health officials published proposed regulations to implement the constitutional amendment, which received more than 71 percent approval from voters in November.

Under Bradley's bill, the state could see another 20 marijuana operators - nearly quadruple the seven current licensed "dispensing organizations" - once the number of patients registered for the treatment reaches 500,000.

Christian Bax, director of the Florida Department of Health's Office of Compassionate Use, told lawmakers last week he expects that many patients to be registered in a state database by the end of the year.

Bradley's plan (SB 406) would also do away with a current requirement that doctors treat patients for at least 90 days before being allowed to order marijuana for them and would expand from 45 days to 90 days the amount of marijuana supplies patients can purchase. The legislation would also ban edible marijuana products "in a format designed to be attractive to children."

Ben Pollara, campaign manager of the political committee that backed Amendment 2 in November, called Bradley's effort "a stark contrast" to the rule proposed Tuesday by the Department of Health.

"It's a good start toward implementing both the letter and the spirit of the constitutional amendment," Pollara said in a telephone interview Thursday.

While the health department's proposed rule appears to overlay requirements now in the Constitution onto current Florida law, Bradley's legislation makes frequent references to the amendment, Pollara said.

"I appreciate the fact that Sen. Bradley's bill actually respects that we're implementing a constitutional amendment here," he said.

The constitutional amendment allows doctors to order 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. Doctors also have 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."

The constitutional amendment allows doctors to order 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. Doctors also have 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."

Bradley's proposal does not include any language that would restrict doctors' ability to decide for themselves if patients qualify for marijuana treatment. But his bill does include a definition of "chronic nonmalignant pain," something not addressed in the amendment, as "pain that is caused by a debilitating medical condition or that originates from a debilitating medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that debilitating medical condition."

"There is a question about how we handle generalized chronic pain. This clarifies that," Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.

Under current law, doctors must complete eight hours of training before they can register patients for marijuana treatment. Bradley's plan would cut the required training from eight to four hours.

Bradley's bill would also allow the state's seven dispensing organizations - currently licensed to grow, process and dispense non-euphoric marijuana for patients with epilepsy or cancer, and full-strength marijuana for terminally ill patients - to operate as "medical marijuana treatment centers" defined in the Constitution.

Under current law, health officials must authorize three new marijuana operator licenses --- including one license for a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association --- once 250,000 patients are registered in the state's "compassionate use" database.

Bradley's proposal also would require a member of the black farmers' association to receive one of the highly sought-after licenses.

Under his plan, health officials would have to grant five more "medical marijuana treatment center" licenses once 250,000 patients are registered in the database; five more when that number reaches 350,000; another five after 400,000 patients are registered; and five more when the number reaches 500,000. His plan also would require five more licenses each time 100,000 more patients are registered after that.

"I don't think it's a significant enough expansion of licenses, nor a quick enough one to serve what's going to be a quickly growing patient base," Pollara said. "It's not a perfect piece of legislation, but I think it's a good start considering it's the first bill released in either chamber."

The number of licenses has been a thorny issue for the marijuana industry, but operators who currently have licenses aren't complaining about the expansion included in Bradley's bill.

"It appears at first blush he's found a way to implement the will of the voters while balancing the needs of patient access and protecting patient safety," Steve Vancore, who represents several licensed medical marijuana operators, said. 

Read the article here: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20170120/senator-offers-roadmap-for-carrying-out-marijuana-ammendment

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ORLANDO WEEKLY: Florida medical marijuana proponents blast proposed state rules

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.

Read the article here: http://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2017/01/18/medical-marijuana-proponents-blast-proposed-state-rules

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FLORIDA POLITICS: DOH begins Amendment 2 rule-making

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

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Amendment 2 Passes!

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.

Mission accomplished.

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.

Two. BELIEVE!!!!!!!

Tonight, I also have two messages for you.

Compassion is HERE!!!!

And, I will always deliver this message:

BELIEVE!!!!!!!!!!

-John Morgan
Yes on 2

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Medical Marijuana Campaign Publishes List of Supporting Medical Professionals

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."

Mr. Pollara continued, "It is also the opinion of virtually all of the editorial boards of major Florida newspapers, and of the Florida legislature, which has passed two laws clearly acknowledging marijuana as medicine."



The full list of medical professionals is below. 



  1. Andrew E. Hano, DO., St Petersburg, Hematology-oncology
  2. Anthony J. Hall, MDCM, FACS, FAANS., Lauderhill, neurological surgery
  3. Richard Sabates, Delray Beach, Family medicine and pain management
  4. Jose Foradada, Tampa, Pediatric Neurology Specialist
  5. David Duncan, Cape Coral, Paramedic
  6. Jose A. Colindres, Broward/Palm Beach County, Pediatrician and Neonatologist
  7. Abner Martin Landry III, Largo, MD, FACR, Interventional Pain Specialist
  8. Jeffrey Kamlet, MD., Miami, Addiction Specialist
  9. Bernard Cantor, MD., Weston, Gynecology and Obstetrics (retired)
  10. Selim Benbadis, Tampa, Neurologist and Neurosurgeon
  11. Gregory Gerdeman, PhD., St Pete, Biology and Pharmacology
  12. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, Tampa, Neurologist
  13. Anne Morgan, MD., Palm Beach Gardens, Family Medicine
  14. Clifford Selsky, Ph.D., MD., Orlando, Palliative Care Pediatrician and Pediatric Oncology and Hematology
  15. Jeffrey Milley, St. Pete Beach, Registered Pharmacist
  16. Joseph Rosado, MD., Sanford, Primary Care Physician
  17. Kathryn Limper, Tampa, RN BSN
  18. Sasha Parker, Fort Lauderdale, Nurse
  19. Nicole Tracey, Fort Myers, RN OCN
  20. John H. Merey, MD., West Palm Beach, Ophthalmologist
  21. Ray Bellamy, MD., Tallahassee, Orthopedic Surgeon
  22. Carol L. Roberts, MD., Tampa, Integrative Medicine ABIHM
  23. Stephen Blythe, Melbourne, Family Physician
  24. Kathryn Lotspeich Villano, MD., Miami, Internal Medicine (retired)
  25. Jason Sturtsman,Vero Beach, B.A.E., Ed.S., School Psychologist
  26. César Rexach, Kissimmee, RN, MSN., Health Care Education
  27. Silvia Betancor, MD., Miami, Internal medicine
  28. Brenda Valdez, Live Oak, RN, Home Health
  29. Luis Galano-Lavin, Palm Coast, Family Medicine/Urgent Care
  30. Maria McConchie, Fort Lauderdale, Nurse Anesthetist
  31. Debbie Johnson, Orlando, RN, CHPN, Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse, Education
  32. Caroline Faxas, Hallandale, Board Certified Acupuncture Physician, Herbalist
  33. Tracy Christian, Palm Beach, Compounding Pharmacist, Pharmacy Owner
  34. Robert H Dudley, MD., Delray Beach, palliative and hospice care
  35. Ike Okeke, Tampa, Pharmacist
  36. Tammy Lettieri, Deerfield Beach,Physical Therapist
  37. Jonathan King, Jacksonville,RN
  38. Michelle Weiner, DO, MPH., Hollywood, Interventional Pain management / physical medicine and rehabilitation
  39. Megan King, Jacksonville ,RN
  40. Lisa Otero, Altamonte Springs , RN,
  41. Jeanne DeSilver, Jacksonville ,RN Retired,
  42. David Berger, MD., FAAP., Pediatrician, Owner and Medical Director, Wholistic Pediatrics and Family Care
  43. Elsie Eten, Safety Harbor, RN Retired,
  44. Linda Claassen, Deland, Hospice RN,
  45. Michael Bean, Melbourne, RN, CEN,
  46. Michelle Lynn Collier, RPh., Winter Garden, Clinical pharmacist
  47. Michael Dziubek, Sarasota, RN
  48. Terri P. Kelly, Tarpon Springs, RN, Oncology Research Auditor
  49. James F. Jones, Amelia Island, Acupuncture Physician
  50. Diane Loo, Miami, RN, Certified Wound Care Nurse
  51. Dennis Howard, Venice, Retired RN 03’, Critical Care Nurse
  52. Shannon Perez, Coral Gables, RN, Critical Care Nurse
  53. Marty Landy, Largo, MD FACR
  54. Patrick Criss, Kennesaw, GA., D.C., B.S. (Licensed In Florida and Georgia)
  55. Richard Bolin, Eustis, ER RN
  56. Anthony M. Walker, Hollywood, R.N.
  57. Don Vliegenthart, Melbourne, Nonoperative Orthopedics and Pain Management
  58. Clyde Pence, Pensacola, Nephrologist
  59. Robert V. Siegel, Fort Walton Beach ,General Physician
  60. Kathaleen Davis, Ft. Myers, Psychiatric Nurse, Certified Hospice and Wound Care
  61. Leonarda Duran,MD, Miami, Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist
  62. J.D. Gold, PhD., Summerfield, Clinical Psychologist
  63. Scott Nations, Largo, Registered ER Nurse
  64. Elizabeth Kostelnick, Crystal River, RN
  65. Geena Palank, Stuart,  RN BSN
  66. Michelle Backus, Sebring, RN
  67. Sasha Parker, Fort Lauderdale, RN/Educational Director Esthetic Skin Institute
  68. Liva Jacobs, Miami, RN
  69. Joy S. Graham, MD., Palm Beach Gardens, Anesthesiologist
  70. Alisa Fuller, Orlanda, RN BSN
  71. Maria Medina Capote, MD., Miami, pediatrician
  72. Jerry Capote, MD., Miami, pediatrician
  73. Shannon Carnley, Bartow, RN
  74. Justin Sellers, Orlando, Radiologic Technologist, CT Scan and MRI Certified
  75. Cesar Rexach, Kissimmee, Retired RN MSN
  76. Andrew Margileth, Miami, Pediatric Dermatologist
  77. Charles Montgomery, Lakeland, RN
  78. Steven Bowman, Clearwater, MD of Internal Medicine
  79. Donna Lahey, Marathon, Clinical Laboratory Technologist
  80. Barry Apfel, Boca Raton, Registered pharmacist
  81. Jonathan Daitch, MD., Fort Myers, Pain management
  82. Rachel Bjornstad, Pensacola, Medical Technologist
  83. Nancy Barstow, Venice, RN
  84. Lawrence Schiffman, DO., FAOCD., Doral, dermatology
  85. John W. Pate, Fountain ,RN
  86. Tina McBride, Punta Gorda, RN
  87. Jim Funk, Gainesville, ARNP (retired)
  88. Andrew Sutherland, Orlando, Doctor of Chiropractics
  89. Pam Pirraglia, RN, CCM, CDMS; Nurse Case Manager
  90. Purvin Shah, DO, Jacksonville, Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine & Critical Care Medicine
  91. Stephanie Smithgall, Callahan, RN
  92. Cyndi Christine, Port Orange, RN (retired)
  93. Yolanda C. Leon, Psy.D., ABPdN - Tampa/Gainesville,  Neuropsychologist, Clinical Psychologist, School Psychologist, Pediatric Neuropsychology
  94. Justin Davis, M.D., Gainesville, Family practice, alternative and integrative medicine
  95. Tricia Gibbs, Sarasota, Medical assistant
  96. Eyad Alsabbag, M.D., Brooksville, Pain management
  97. Bill Hadley, Tampa, RN
  98. Valerie Pasqualini, Del ray, RN and risk manager
  99. Peter A. Radice, MD, FACP, FAAHPM., Tampa, Supportive Oncology, Palliative Care
  100. Michael Uphues, DO, Naples, Family medicine
  101. Linda Colindres, St. Pete, RN
  102. Bruce Alperstein, MD., Milton, internal medicine
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Editorial Support Grows for Amendment 2

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 
EMAIL: PRESS@UNITEDFORCARE.ORG 

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:

Yes in 2016, but opposed in 2014:
Bradenton Herald
Ft Myers News Press
Florida Times Union

Yes in 2014 and 2016:
Miami
Sun Sentinel
Sarasota Herald Tribune
Tallahassee Democrat
Gainesville Sun
Ocala Star Banner

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About Us.

Florida for Care was founded in 2014 to advocate for the implementation of a strong, well-regulated, Florida medical marijuana system under Amendment 2.

Contact Us.

  • Address:
         Attn: Eric S/Su Van/Chris R.
         Florida for Care
         PO BOX 416169
         525 71st St
         Miami Beach, FL 33141
  • Phone: (850) 364-4868
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