September 22, 2014

Anzalone/United For Care poll: 69% of FL voters back medical marijuana


From a press release:

A recently commissioned poll by United for Care shows strong and stable support for Florida Amendment 2, a measure that would allow for the medical use of marijuana in the state. According to the survey conducted on behalf of United for Care, the main organization advocating for passage of the amendment, 69% of likely voters in Florida support this measure with only 28% opposed. 60% voter approval is needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment in the State of Florida. The findings are significant because they show voter backing of the amendment has remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of 2013.

United for Care has conducted four internal polls since January 2013, employing 3 different pollsters. The first survey by Hamilton Campaigns showed 70% support in January 2013. The second, carried out in March of 2013 by the Kitchens Group, revealed 71% intended to vote “Yes.” A June 2014 poll by Anzalone Liszt Research and Public Opinion Strategies reported 70% voter support for the amendment.

“If you look at the poll numbers since the beginning of last year they are virtually unchanged, and they reassert what we’ve consistently said: Floridians overwhelmingly support medical marijuana,” said Ben Pollara, Campaign Manager at United for Care. “Keeping medical decisions in the hands of doctors - not politicians - is simply not a controversial position for the vast majority of Floridians, and that has not changed over the last twenty-one months.”

“The latest poll speaks very highly of the basic compassion of Florida voters,” said Pollara. “Opponents of Amendment 2 have been relentlessly pushing disingenuous talking points, and insulting the intelligence of the voters - but Floridians have seen through their deception and they are ready to vote for this amendment because it is the right thing to do for the ill and the suffering.”

The Anzalone Liszt Grove Research poll of 1,004 likely Florida voters was conducted from September 12-18, 2014 and has a margin of error of +/-3.1%.

September 16, 2014

Florida's NAACP backs medical-marijuana ballot initiative

 From a press release

Today, the Florida State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People proudly announced its support of United for Care and the passage of Amendment 2 this November. The amendment, which would legalize medicinal marijuana in Florida, will appear on the ballot on November 4, 2014.

NAACP Florida State Conference, including its Branches, Youth Councils and College Chapters, is a state affiliate of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, has worked successfully with allies of all races and plays a significant role in improving the lives of minorities in America.

“Today is an exciting day for everyone working to pass Amendment 2 this November, especially for patients with debilitating diseases who could potentially benefit from compassionate care,” said Ben Pollara, Campaign Manager at United for Care. “It is welcome news to have earned the support of an organization that has such an incredible history of fighting for the rights of the people.”

Continue reading "Florida's NAACP backs medical-marijuana ballot initiative " »

September 15, 2014

Costa Farms files lawsuit challenging agency's marijuana 'lottery' rule

The Florida Department of Health says it wanted to use a lottery to select the companies that will dispense low-THC cannabis in Florida to avoid lawsuits, but on Monday the agency in charge of writing the medical marijuana rules drew its first lawsuit -- because of the lottery.

Costa Farms of Miami, one of the state's largest farming operations filed an administrative complaint against the Department of Health Monday, alleging that it is violating the law authoritizing the selection of five companies to dispense low-THC cannabis by requiring they be selected through a lottery system.

The company claims that the lottery system violates the law authoritizing the selection of five companies to dispense low-THC cannabis because the lottery system, adopted by the agency after three public hearings, "is not mentioned in the legislation."

"The Department of Health has a duty to ensure that the dispensing organizations that are selected to make this medicine are the very best, not merely the luckiest,'' said Peter Freyre, vice president of Costa Farms in a statement. "We suggest that the Department abandon the notion that a lottery is the appropriate method for selecting dispensing organizations.”

The Department of Health, which had agreed to modify parts of the rule but adhere to the lottery selection process, is not happy. Agency officials said they proposed the lottery to avoid lawsuits -- suggesting that selecting companies based on fixed criteria would be more contentious, thereby delaying the process.

"A rule challenge is regrettable,'' said John Armstrong, secretary of the department and the state's surgeon general, in a statement. "The parties behind a challenge should explain why they are delaying the process of providing compassionate care to children with refractory epilepsy and patients with advanced cancer. The Department remains committed to getting this product to the market as soon as possible for qualified children and families in Florida.”

The proposal requires companies to meet minimal standards but the final names will be selected via lottery. The rule tracks the legislation passed by lawmakers last spring by requiring that the only companies eligible to compete for the licenses are those that have been operating in Florida for more than 30 years and with at least 400,000 plants. 

The lottery concept, however, has been widely opposed by families of people suffering from intractable epilepsy, who are concerned that the standards are not high enough to guarantee the safety of the plans. Growers and investors have also argued against the lottery, suggesting that fixed standards would result in the companies with the safest, most proven approach will emerge as most worthy. Some companies, such as Costa Farms, are prepared to spend thousands to lobby for the license but have said they may not apply if the lottery system remains.

“Costa Farms understands and agrees that the low THC cannabis program needs to be implemented in the time frame contemplated by the Florida legislature,'' Freyre said.  "We are seeking administrative review of the Department’s rule to preserve our rights but are fully cooperative and hope that we can resolve this matter by negotiating a quick resolution of all outstanding issues with the Department.”




September 14, 2014

The politics, paradoxes and polling of pot


Tallahassee’s conservative political establishment is about to embark on a multi-million ad campaign to kill a popular, proposed constitutional amendment for medical marijuana.

Paradoxically, more money and more message could mean more problems for the opponents.

That’s because one of the best ways to motivate older and conservative just-say-no voters is to frame the amendment as a “smokescreen” for outright legalization. But that message (questionable though it is) can motivate younger and more liberal voters.

And those younger voters, typically less likely to show in mid-term elections, are probably more enthused about outright marijuana legalization rather than medical cannabis.

Not only could these less-likely voters show, polling and demographic trends indicate that they’d be less likely to vote for Gov. Rick Scott, the standard bearer of the Tallahassee political establishment.

So conservatives could unwittingly fund their own demise by unwittingly ginning up young voters.

“Medical marijuana will probably drive up turnout among lower-propensity voters by a point or two,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor who has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles on ballot initiatives and voter performance.

“It’s not going to be a lot, but in a close election like this, a little is a lot,” Smith said. “Now who medical marijuana helps politically is much less clear.”

The conventional wisdom, therefore, about Democrat Charlie Crist getting a major boost from medical marijuana could be dead wrong. Crist, Democrats and the campaign led by People United for Medical Marijuana face their own conflicts when it comes to cannabis.

Welcome to the tricky politics, paradoxes and polling of pot.

More here

September 12, 2014

Anti-medical marijuana forces place $1.6m TV ad buy, promise more to come


Drug Free Florida, the folks opposed to medical marijuana, is dropping major greenbacks on a TV ad campaign: $1.6 million statewide in the first week of October.

The buy coincides with the first batch of absentee ballots dropping in the mail. Republicans and conservatives are the most-likely to vote by absentee ballot and the least-likely to support the proposed constitutional amendment, which needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.

Republican support is still strong, albeit not over 60 percent in most surveys, but out-sized Democratic and independent support have the constitutional amendment polling at anywhere from 61 to 70 percent (it's likely about 65%). By my calculations, if you drag down Republican support to about 42 percent, the amendment likely fails -- even if Democratic and independent support remains in the low to mid 70s.

We don't yet know the exact message of Drug Free Florida's ads, but it's doubtful it'll bash medical-marijuana backer John Morgan (why give the trial lawyer free advertising and credibility with people who want to hire a renegade?).

Not only is the medium the message. So is the size and location of the media buy. And this has "conservative" written all over it. Conservative North Florida (except for West Palm Beach's media market, which gives a great bang for the buck) will see the most ads, a figure expressed below as GRPs, which stands for Gross Ratings Points (1,000 GRPs generally means an average TV viewer will likely see the ad 10 times).

Continue reading "Anti-medical marijuana forces place $1.6m TV ad buy, promise more to come" »

September 09, 2014

PPP: Crist 42%, Scott 39%. Medical marijuana in trouble at 61%

From a press release:

PPP's newest Florida poll continues to find a tight race for Governor, with Charlie Crist holding a slight advantage over Rick Scott. Crist is at 42% to 39% for Scott, and 8% for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. This election is shaping up as a choice between two candidates voters have decided they don't care for. Only 40% of voters approve of the job Scott is doing to 49% who disapprove. But they don't like Crist either- 40% of voters rate him favorably with 46% holding a negative opinion. The dissatisfaction with both major candidates probably helps to explain Wyllie's 8% standing but since he is drawing pretty equally from both Scott and Crist he's not having a major effect on the race in the way some Libertarians are in other states. When you take him out of the equation Crist's lead remains 3 points at 44/41.

Continue reading "PPP: Crist 42%, Scott 39%. Medical marijuana in trouble at 61%" »

September 07, 2014

August 28, 2014

Will Floridians be able to get endless supply of pot?

Opponents have made many arguments against Florida’s proposed medical marijuana amendment, but here’s a new one: They say patients would be able to get an unlimited amount of pot should the measure pass.

Dr. Rafael Miguel, director of the Sarasota Memorial Institute for Advanced Medicine's Pain Medicine Program, was one of three representatives for Drug Free America who visited the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Aug. 20. He joined Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Tallahassee attorney Susan Kelsey to discuss why the Sunshine State should shy away from Amendment 2 in November.

Miguel offered several reasons why the medical establishment did not like the constitutional amendment. He said there was an unreasonable focus on marijuana’s smokeable form in order to obtain psychoactive effects, and added that the process by which doctors help patients get cannabis flies in the face of the prescription model of doling out drugs.

Miguel focused on how "recommendations" to use marijuana are not prescriptions, and that they don’t allow doctors to control the amount and dosage patients consume, or for how long they consume it.

"You don't get refills -- you get it forever," Miguel said. "There's no regulation on consumption."

PolitiFact Florida has written about the amendment’s guidelines before, but we were curious in this case whether doctors who recommend medical marijuana to patients would indeed have no say in how much or for how long their patients could take it. See Joshua Gillin's full fact-check.

August 27, 2014

Study: States with medical pot see drop in overdoses from narcotic pain meds

MarijuanaFrom Stephen Nohlgren, Tampa Bay Times

In a finding that could ripple through Florida, a study released this week reported that the average number of narcotic painkiller overdoses in medical marijuana states is 25 percent lower than would be expected if pot use weren't legal.

The study, published in theJournal of the American Medical Association,estimated a reduction of about 1,700 overdoses in 2010 in the 13 states that had medical marijuana systems up and running then.

The association seemed to strengthen as years passed. Overdose rates averaged 20 percent lower than expected a year after medical marijuana was allowed and 33 percent lower by the sixth year.

"This suggests an unexpected public health benefit from medical marijuana laws,'' said lead author Marcus Bachhuber, a researcher at Philadelphia's VA Medical Center.

The numbers did not prove cause and effect. In fact, the authors said that unrelated factors — like cultural shifts — might account for the lower overdose rates.

But they theorized that marijuana might lead people to take fewer painkillers. Or perhaps pot relaxes people, so they take fewer anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants that can lead to "drug cocktail" overdoses. Story here.

Continue reading "Study: States with medical pot see drop in overdoses from narcotic pain meds" »

August 22, 2014

Already fighting for ALS patients, medical marijuana backers get "debilitatingly cold"


Sure, the ice-bucket challenge is a stunt. But it seems to be raising money ($31.5 million and counting) and awareness for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease).

But before everyone got all cold and wet, one Florida political group, United For Care, was already making ALS a central issue in its campaign -- to legalize medical marijuana via constitutional amendment. ALS is one of the nine specifically enumerated "debilitating medical conditions" in the amendment's text and one of the campaign's activists, Cathy Jordan, is an ALS patient who says marijuana helps her more than just about any other drug.

So this week, like many in social media, the Miami-based United for Care group took the "challenge" and challenged its campaign chairman, trial lawyer John Morgan, to do the same. The campaign's director, Ben Pollara, said they were taking the challenge on behalf of Jordan.

Coincidentally, police raided Jordan's home just after a bill was named in her honor last year. That bill was promptly ignored, like other medical marijuana legislation, by the Legislature. Lawmakers then somewhat reversed course and legalized low-THC marijuana, which advocates say won't do much to help people with ALS, cancer, AIDS, etc.

Backers of the Legislature's limited, scaled back medical-marijuana law said they weren't passing it to politically undermine the popular amendment (which they tried to block in court). But lo and behold, opponents of medical marijuana now say the amendment isn't needed because the Legislature acted.

Too bad there's no ice bucket challenge to chill the hot air that comes out of Tallahassee.

Anyway, here's the video.