September 14, 2014

The politics, paradoxes and polling of pot

@MarcACaputo

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

@MarcACaputo

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"

@MarcACaputo

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.

August 16, 2014

The human side of the big money behind the marijuana amendment

Morgan photo Adelson photoHere's a must-read from the Tampa Bay Times' Stephen Nohlgren on the unlikely relationship between John Morgan and Sheldon Adelson, the two big-money sources behind the Amendment 2 medical marijuana campaigns:

Trial lawyer John Morgan — whose outsized persona is already etched onto Florida's consciousness — said medical marijuana has boosted his celebrity even higher.

At the Orlando airport last week, eight to 10 people stopped him between the plane and his car to thank him for bankrolling the constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, Morgan said. "Two or three wanted to have their pictures taken with me."

However, none of that hoopla surprised Morgan as much as an email that arrived three months ago from Nevada.

It came from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who had just donated $2.5 million to defeat Amendment 2 — instantly counterbalancing Morgan's wealth in the fight over medical pot.

"I was stunned,'' Morgan said. "He told me that I was all wrong.''

With his typical thick skin and glib patter, Morgan was delighted to respond — setting off an ongoing email exchange that now has the two titans on a first name basis, and a possible face-to-face meeting next month in Las Vegas.

"I like him a lot. He's a self-made man,'' said Morgan, 58. "He's is one of the most generous men on the face of the earth.''

Adelson, 81, did not respond to requests for comment on his marijuana stance or the emails he and Morgan have exchanged.

But Adelson's background provides a glimpse into what may have motivated one of the world's richest people to jump into the medical marijuana fray.

In 2005, Adelson's 48-year-old son Mitchell died in Fort Myers. Adelson's wife Miriam told Israel's Haaretz newspaper that her stepson, a long-time heroin and cocaine addict, overdosed. More here.

August 15, 2014

Jeb Bush conflicted over feds role in medical-marijuana enforcement

@MarcACaputo

Former Gov. Jeb Bush opposes Florida’s medical-marijuana initiative, but the potential GOP presidential candidate said he’s not sure if the federal government should enforce federal cannabis laws if the Sunshine State proposal passes.

Bush’s struggle with the state-federal split over medical marijuana reflects a broader struggle in the national Republican Party, where anti-drug hardliners are at odds with states-rights conservatives and libertarians over the issue.

Though a top Republican and frequent critic of President Obama, Bush refrained from repudiating the current White House’s position to de-emphasize enforcement of certain marijuana laws in the 20 states that have legalized medical cannabis, plus Washington D.C., and the two states that have completely legalized adult personal use of the drug, Colorado and Washington.

Asked Friday about the federal government’s role in prosecuting pot laws in medical-marijuana states, Bush said he’d have to give it more thought.

“In medical marijuana states? I don’t know. I’d have to sort that out,” Bush said. “I think that states ought to have a right to decide these things. I think the federal government’s role in our lives is way too-overreaching.”

“But having said that,” he continued, “if you’re in Colorado and you can purchase marijuana openly, should people in Wyoming not be concerned about that? And I think there, maybe, the federal law needs to be looked at — interstate commerce.”

More here

Crist blasts Scott for plan to use a lottery to select marijuana producers

Crist and John MorganThe growing tensions between prospective producers of medical marijuana and state regulators have now become political fodder as former Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday blasted the Gov. Rick Scott for a plan to use a lottery to select the companies that will develop legalized pot in Florida.

Speaking to reporters in Miami on Friday, Crist said he believes the system should be based on a merit-selection system, similar to one endorsed by nurseries, investors and families of people suffering from the ailments the low-THC marijuana will be used to treat.

"The best way to award any contract is to have a good, open, honest, competitive process," Crist said when asked about the issue Friday, according to the News Service of Florida.

"I don't know that a lottery is the right way to go, frankly,'' he said. "It seems to me that people ought to submit their applications. They ought to be reviewed, thoroughly reviewed in a comprehensive fashion, and those that are determined to be the best are the ones that should get the contracts."

Crist’s comments come a day after the Department of Health, an agency of the governor, released its proposed rule for the development and cultivation of the low-THC marijuana.

The issue has the potential to become a legal fight, or discourage many companies from participating, and Crist is clearly prepared to use this as another wedge issue against the governor.

Despite appeals from families and prospective companies that the agency use a merit-based system to select who will obtain the licenses, the agency -- fearing litigation -- continues to adhere to a lottery system. Under the rule, the companies will comply with certain criteria and from that list a computer-generated "double random lottery-type system" will decide which companies will be granted the license in each of five regions of the state.

Among those who support using a merit-based system are dozens of Tallahassee's biggest-named lobbyists and lawyers, most of whom are Republicans, who have been hired to represent the wanna-be pot producers. 

Crist is also a supporter of Amendment 2, the proposal on the November ballot to allow for the legalization of a broader array of marijuana for a specific list of ailments. He has been heavily backed by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who is the prime supporter of the amendment and is Crist's boss at the Orlando-based law firm of Morgan & Morgan.

Scott has not commented on the marijuana rule but has indicated that he personally opposes the amendment. Scott was joined on the campaign trail on Friday with former Gov. Jeb Bush, who came out in opposition to Amendment 2 on Thursday.

Photo: Charlie Crist and John Morgan