October 29, 2014

Marijuana supporters blast latest web ad from opponents

With less than a week until the election, supporters and opponents of Amendment 2, which would allow marijuana for medical use, are still waging a fierce battle to sway voters.

Amendment 2 advocates, United for Care, is blasting the latest salvo from the Drug Free Florida Committee. The political action committee on Wednesday launched a web ad featuring Polk County Sheriff Gray Judd.

Judd's message is that Amendment 2 "gives teens legal access to pot. Make no mistake. Teen drug use will rise. They don't call Amendment 2 the pot for teens amendment but they should."

United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara responded with a press release stating that "medical marijuana opponents have decided they can't win by telling the truth. You don't have to take my word for it - independent, objective observers have clearly demonstrated that the claims made by the No on 2 campaign are untruthful.

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October 27, 2014

Medical marijuana group to TV stations: stop running 'false' ad by opponents

From a press release:

Today, United for Care, the largest organization advocating for Amendment 2 on Florida’s November ballot, sent a cease and desist letter to all of the television stations broadcasting the latest ad produced by the No on 2 campaign entitled “It’s Nuts.” In the :30 second spot, multiple speakers take turns laying out untruthful and illegitimate claims designed to discourage Floridians from voting for the amendment, which would only allow for the medical use of marijuana by patients with debilitating diseases and medical conditions.

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October 26, 2014

Vote on medical marijuana will decide whether some families stay -- or leave Florida

 Nicolas Peruyero was 8 years old, blind and unable to walk or talk when his mother saw a documentary about the benefits of medical marijuana and its promise to reduce seizures.

For a few moments, Nancy Peruyero imagined what Nicolas’ life might be like without the relentless myoclonic seizures every day. And for the first time, she allowed herself to hope, an emotion she had rarely felt since that August afternoon in 2009 when her youngest son was diagnosed with Batten disease, an unusual neurological disorder marked by seizures, loss of motor skills and mental impairment. His life expectancy with the disease is no more than 12 years. He turned 9 on Oct.2.

“We want to try medical marijuana in hopes that it will calm his seizures and help him become more alert and sleep better,” said Peruyero, 41, who first watched the CNN documentary Weed about a year ago. “We want to be able to have all our options. For us, this is a quality of life issue. What parent would not do everything they could to help their child?”

Politics aside, for families with medically needy children, Florida’s march into the world of medical marijuana — fraught with differing opinions by legislators, medical professionals and patients, and little scientific evidence — is personal, built upon the anecdotal evidence of cannabis’ healing properties. It’s not a miracle drug, they say, but rather a compassionate alternative treatment.

These families are faced with balancing the hope that expanded medical marijuana will become available if Florida voters pass a constitutional amendment on Nov.4 and the daunting reality that even with that approval, the marketplace could be a long time coming. Story by Audra Burch here. 

October 21, 2014

TV personality and veterans crusader Montel Williams makes FL medical marijuana pitch

@MarcACaputo

Montel Williams, the former host of his eponymous show, has become a full-time veterans' rights crusader recently and now he's wading into Florida politics with a pitch for the medical-marijuana constitutional amendment.

Unknown to many, Williams suffers from multiple sclerosis and, he says in this fundraising pitch, marijuana works better than opiates for pain management. Here's the email:

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October 20, 2014

Gwen Graham, D-Margaritaville, gets Jimmy Buffett to host voter rally

@MarcACaputo

Florida music icon Jimmy Buffett plans to hold an Oct. 29 get-out-the-vote rally for Democrat Gwen Graham in her effort to unseat U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland.

Buffett is set to perform “a short acoustic set with his friend Mac McAnally” and tout Graham’s candidacy, according to a press release. More details are forthcoming about the time, location and ticket availability.

From the free media exposure to voter mobilization to fundraising, Buffett’s appearance for Graham is the type of star-power help most candidates dream about. Polling indicates the race between her and Southerland is tight in Congressional District 2, which stretches from the Tallahassee area to Panama City.

The “Margaritaville” singer has been friends with the Graham family for decades. Buffett founded the Save the Manatees advocacy group in 1981 with then-Gov. Bob Graham, the candidate’s father.

Last month, Buffett was spotted in Tallahassee dining at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee with lobbyists Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl. They represent Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings.

Sharkey and Biehl also represent the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, Inc., which would love to cash in on Florida’s new but limited prescription cannabis law. That law is highly restrictive, though, and the association and potential investors would love for Amendment 2 to pass.

It’s probably a good bet that the old smuggler at least supports the medical marijuana amendment, but so far he hasn’t said much (or been asked much) about it. Some polls show it struggling to get near 60 percent – the threshold needed to pass a constitutional amendment – while others have it polling at levels indicating it will be approved.

October 13, 2014

St. Pete Poll: Scott-Crist at 45-44%; medical marijuana support low, at 54%

From Saint Petersblog:

Much as it has been for months, Florida’s gubernatorial race remains locked in a virtual tie, according to a new statewide poll released Monday from StPetePolls.

It’s important to note that this may be one, if not the, most comprehensive polls of the governor’s race. It includes a mix of both robo-calls and email polling. The poll has also been rebalanced to reflect the three percent partisan advantage most forecasters give to the GOP.

Republican Rick Scott holds a one-point lead over Democrat Charlie Crist, 44 to 43 percent. Scott’s slim advantage is still within the poll’s margin of error....

Also losing steam in the minds of voters is the push for Amendment 2, the referendum to allow marijuana for treatment of medical conditions. Polling found that only 52 percent of likely voters said they favor Amendment 2, with just under 39 percent saying “no” and 10 percent undecided. Those numbers are under the 60 percent approval needed for the referendum to pass.

More on the poll here

The post is here 

October 12, 2014

What's one thing neither side is talking about in the marijuana/Amend 2 debate?

MarijuanaHere’s the little secret that neither side of the Amendment 2 debate over medical marijuana is talking about: The Florida Legislature controls its fate.

You don’t hear it from opposition groups, who warn that legalizing medical marijuana will endanger children, spawn pot shops on every street corner and become the state’s next pill mill fiasco. That will happen only if the conservative Florida Legislature decides not to impose strict rules on who obtains the marijuana, who distributes it and under what conditions.

You don’t hear it from proponents, as the United for Care campaign rolls into college campuses, riding on the hopes of medically needy Floridians, and wishful recreational pot smokers.

Access to medical cannabis for those groups wouldn’t be easy, either, if the Legislature put in place a tightly controlled cultivation and dispensing system similar to one it adopted earlier this year when it legalized low-THC, high CBD strains of cannabis.

And what’s to stop lawmakers from doing any of this and more?

“Nothing,” said Jon Mills, former Democratic House speaker and a constitutional lawyer who wrote the amendment on the ballot before voters on Nov.4. “The Legislature can do anything that is not inconsistent with the Constitution.”

The proposed constitutional amendment, he said, prevents the Legislature from creating a barrier to access for patients diagnosed with nine particular debilitating ailments, or others who meet the requirements of the law. But he noted that it does allow lawmakers to establish a protocol for determining what diseases are eligible for treatment and to put in place rules that keep the public safe.

Story here. 

 

October 08, 2014

Survey: Public lacks information on amendments, rates state badly for health care for seniors

A majority of Floridians believe the passage of a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana will lead to recreational use, according to the latest report from the Sunshine State Survey. But most of those surveyed said they didn't get enough information about proposed amendments or only heard one side.

The survey, administered by the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs and Nielsen, also offers Floridians' views on health care, race relations, elections and transportation.

Some of the findings:

* Fifty-four percent of survey participants rated the state's provision of health care to seniors and its assistance of the state's mentally and physically disabled as just fair or poor.

*Of the five reasons listed for not voting, "not eligible" was the prime reason given, though the number of those who cited ineligibility decreased from 48 percent in 2011 to 28 percent in 2014.

*Sixty-three percent of resondents said the state is doing a fair or poor job of improving race relations compared to those who said the state is doing an excellent job (5 percent) or good (24 percent). 

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October 01, 2014

Group releases a framework for regulating medical marijuana

The fate of Amendment 2 will be decided in less than five weeks, but one group has already released its recommended framework for how a system that regulates medical marijuana would work.

The 12-member Florida For Care Blue Ribbon Commission, which includes Democrats and Republicans, and representatives from law enforcement, business, health and other areas, has released proposed principles that range from patient protection to professional licenses and packaging. It addresses issues like physician requirements and continuing education, regulations on caregivers and a compassionate use registry.

Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican, and vice chair of the commission, said he doesn't plan on voting for the amendment but he joined the group to help devise a plan that would incorporate different views and assist the legislature in determining safeguards if the amendment passes.

Constitutional amendments need 60 percent of the vote to pass. The polling average of the last major public surveys shows about 64 percent of Florida voters favor Amendment 2.

"I am against the amendment because I don't think enough research has been done," Diaz de la Portilla said, "but if the people want it and it passes, then we need to get it right.  ... If you have people who are for it and against it, what comes out is a better, well thought-out plan."

Despite his opposition, Diaz de la Portilla said Republicans and Democrats "have to be open-minded." 

The proposal is a "starting point," said the commission's chairman, Jon Mills, who is the Amendment 2 author and a former speaker of the House.

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September 29, 2014

Medical marijuana ad wars start in FL with release of pro & con commercials

@MarcACaputo

The supporters and opponents of medical marijuana both posted their first TV ads Monday, just in time for Floridians to receive the first wave of absentee ballots in the mail.

The clash is one that has played out in 23 other states plus Washington D.C., with medical-marijuana supporters playing up the benefits of cannabis in treating cancer or MS -- while opponents target older, more conservative voters with a message about crime.

"They don't call it the Drug-Dealer Protection Act. But they should," says the opposition ad from Drug Free Florida Committee, which focuses on a provision in the proposed constitutional amendment that allows caregivers to handle marijuana. 

The supporters, People United for Medical Marijuana, concentrate on the broad outlines and promise of the amendment: Getting people the care they need without the intrusion of government.

"Twenty-three states now keep government and politicians out of the doctor-patient relationship. And it's worked," says the ad. 

Drug Free appears to be spending the most early: $1.6 million, with the likelihood of millions more to come -- especially from Las Vegas gambling magnate and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.

People United for Medical Marijuana hasn't disclosed how much it's spending. Its chairman, Democratic donor and Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, have promised to do what it takes to get their message out.

A constitutional amendment needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. The polling average of the last major public surveys pegs Florida voter support at about 64 percent.

Drug Free is concentrating on conservatives because, if Republican support falls to about 40-42 percent, the amendment will likely fail even if independent and Democratic support remains in or around the 70 percent range (more here).

Over the months, Republican support for the amendment appears to be dropping. But Democratic and independent support appears to be increasing. As a result, polls from the conservative-leaning business group, Associated Industries of Florida, show the amendment's support has remained at 64 percent for months. People United's polling showed the amendment's support has remained relatively constant as well, at 69 percent this month and 70 percent in June.

Here are the ads, in-depth fact checks to follow.