January 26, 2015

FL GOP senator files major medical-marijuana bill


Seriously sick Floridians and those who can’t find adequate prescription drugs would be allowed access to "medical-grade" marijuana under a major cannabis bill filed Monday by a top Florida Republican state senator.

St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes’ 28-page legislation, the most far-reaching of its kind by a top legislative leader, seeks to regulate the cultivation, distribution and use of medical marijuana in Florida.

The bill mirrors parts of a proposed constitutional amendment that garnered 57.6 percent of the vote. That amendment, which failed because it didn't meet a 60 percent threshold for approval, has been redrafted and could appear on the 2016 ballot.

Brandes said he opposed the amendment, largely because he thought the Legislature should be in charge of making such a major change to healthcare and criminal law in Florida.


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January 09, 2015

Medical-marijuana, then and now, a 2014-16 comparison of the FL amendments


People United for Medical Marijuana has drafted a 2016 proposed constitutional amendment that makes numerous changes to its 2014 proposal. Petition-gathering begins Monday (more here). Here's a side-by-side look at the differences in wording between the two proposals:

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A medical marijuana killer in 2014: voter 'rolloff'


University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith weighs in on what "really hurt" Florida's medical marijuana initiative in 2014: "down-ballot roll-off."

That is, 101,807 fewer people voted for the amendment than governor.

Smith wrote his analysis in response to yesterday's Miami Herald story (here) about the resurrection of the amendment. This is from Smith's Election Smith blog:

As this Figure [reproduced below] reveals, support for Amendment (Yellow line) was fairly strong across the state of Florida (it only dipped below 50% in 15 mostly rural counties). The big problem for Morgan and his campaign consultants was ballot roll-off, that is, voters who cast ballots in the gubernatorial race for Democrat Charile Crist (Blue line), but who didn’t vote for legalizing medical marijuana.  Support for Crist in Broward county, for example, topped 70%, and support for Amendment 2 was nearly as high.  The down-ballot roll-off on Amendment 2, however, was 5.3%. Crist tallied 17,000 more votes than Morgan’s Amendment 2 in Broward.  In Miami-Dade county, Crist out-polled Amendment 2 by more than 28,000 votes, as roll-off was 6.7% in the populous South Florida county.  Amendment 2 failed to achieve 60% in Miami-Dade not because of poor turnout, but because of the high roll-off among Crist supporters.  Across the state, roll-off on Amendment 2 was by far the greatest in Broward and Miami-Dade, strongholds for Democrats and support for the legalization of medical marijuana.

What's interesting about the Miami-Dade and Broward numbers is how it indicates the affect of big money in the race. In the closing days of the campaign, the medical-marijuana opponents, Drug Free Florida, saturated the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market with negative TV ads. Drug Free also hired Javier Correoso, a Republican Cuban-American, to reach out to that demographic in Miami-Dade (where Cuban-Americans account for roughly 72 percent of registered Republicans). People United for Medical Marijuana couldn't afford to keep up and didn't advertise in the market at all.

Overall, Drug Free Florida outspent People United by about 3 to 1 on TV. And the amendment still got 57.6 percent of the vote. But it failed because it didn't meet the 60 percent voter-approval threshhold.

Yup, money -- especially money in TV in a political campaign -- matters.


January 08, 2015

The politics and policy of medical marijuana, 2016 edition


Florida’s medical marijuana initiative is back and, its backers say, new and improved.

The proposed amendment, submitted Thursday to the Florida Secretary of State’s office, closely resembles the 2014 initiative that narrowly failed at the ballot box — however it was rewritten throughout in an attempt to quiet critics who said it had too many loopholes.

The amendment backers, People United for Medical Marijuana, on Monday will start gathering the 683,149 voter signatures needed to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

“I’mmmmmmmm baaaaaaaaaack,” joked John Morgan, the wealthy Orlando trial lawyer who sunk about $4 million of his own money into last year’s effort.

“Last time I did this, it was like a maze,” Morgan says. “Well, I’ve been through it once. I know how to do this. We made a lot of mistakes and we won’t make them this time.”

The new proposal specifies that parents would have to consent if their child is to receive medical marijuana. It adds extra language to clarify that only people with “debilitating medical conditions” can receive the drug. It makes sure to say that it can only be recommended by a licensed medical physician. And the Department of Health would be empowered to deny felons the ability to be so-called “caregivers” who deliver marijuana for a qualified patient.

Story here

Download 2016 MMJ initiative

December 12, 2014

As feds let Indian tribes legalize marijuana, what will it mean for Florida?

MarijuanaWill marijuana be as legal as poker chips on Native American tribal lands in Florida?

That is the question being asked after the U.S. Justice Department published a memo directing federal prosecutors nationwide to allow tribes to cultivate and grow marijuana on their sovereign lands without fear of federal harassment.

The decision will be made a case-by-case basis, according to the memo published Thursday, and there is no indication yet that Florida’s two federally recognized tribes — the Miccosukees and Seminoles — will participate.

But experts say the proposal opens the door for Native Americans across the country to capitalize on the lucrative new industry much like the way the tribes began selling cigarettes and opening casinos. Story here. 


November 14, 2014

Judge rejects lottery for medical marijuana growers; orders health department to write new rules

An administrative law judge on Friday ordered the Florida Department of Health to start over and map out a new plan for growing, processing and selling a form of medical marijuana, known as Charlotte's Web.

Judge W. David Watkins of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, rejected the idea of a controversial lottery to pick the nurseries that would grow the plants, a decision that could impact when the marijuana oil will be available to patients.

Watkins stated in his order that after reviewing chemical and safety issues and testimony from growers,  "I knew that the lottery became strictly a chance-based scenario and it wasn't merit-based or experience-based. And to me, I had to object to it."

The state legislature, in its last session, legalized Charlotte's Web, which is low in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and high in CBD (cannabidiol) for patients with seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms and cancer. The "Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014," requires the health department to have rules in effect by Jan. 1, 2015.


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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


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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