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May 08, 2014

Florida's potential pot crop will be limited but it's drawing lots of interest

Pot mapA tropical plant farmer in Gainesville is hoping marijuana will be the crop that finally helps him make money.

An orchid grower in Homestead has already researched the best machines to extract the oil from the low-THC cannabis to make it available to patients. A vegetable farmer in Highlands County says he’s got the money, the greenhouses and the technology, so all he needs is the security cameras and armed guards.

And at the Florida Medical Cannabis Association, the phone is ringing off the hook from vendors, distributors and investors who want in on Florida’s expected new crop.

This flash of interest was ignited by Florida legislators last week when they passed a bill on the final day of session opening the door to a low-THC strain of medical marijuana to treat people suffering from epileptic seizures, muscle spasms and cancer.

But a last-minute amendment to the bill (SB 1030), which Gov. Rick Scott has promised to sign into law, will keep a tight lid on growers wanting to cash in on the medical marijuana business. The amendment limits the number of growers to just five, parsed by geography in five different regions of the state.

And the bill requires that only those growers who have been in business continuously for 30 years and have inventories of 400,000 or more plants would qualify to compete for the five regional permits. That means only 21 of the hundreds of nurseries in Florida meet those strict requirements, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture.

“Is 30 years an arbitrary number? Probably, but it’s a first step,” said Ben Bolusky, CEO of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, whose organization helped to develop the amendment. Story here. 

MAP: Nurseries with inventories of more than 400,000 plants and who have been operating in Florida for 30 years who qualify to be distributors of low-THC cannabis.

Scott gets bills on tax holidays, immigrant law license

The annual parade of legislation to the governor's desk began Thursday.

The Legislature sent Gov. Rick Scott a stack of 58 bills, including a package of sales tax holidays for back-to-school items, energy efficient appliances and hurricane supplies (HB 5601) and a bill to allow Jose Godinez-Samperio of Largo, an immigrant from Mexico and "Dreamer" who is not a U.S.citizen, to get a license to practice law in the state from the Florida Supreme Court (HB 755).

Scott also received SB 386, which prohibits Florida courts from applying foreign laws, mainly in divorce and custody cases. He has SB 1642, which simplifies calculations for the A-F grades in the K-12 public schools, and SB 236, which changes the names of two state colleges. Pasco-Hernando Community College will become Pasco-Hernando State College, and Edison State College in Fort Myers will become Florida SouthWestern State College. 

Scott also received a watered-down bill that gives parents a mechanism to complain about the textbooks in their local school districts. The original bill by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, would have required all 67 school districts to review textbooks for students' use.

Another bill going to the governor would allow elected constitutional officers in Hillsborough County to opt out of some civil service protections for county employees. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, tried unsuccessfully to block that bill from being considered by the Senate, which stirred up a tempest between Joyner and Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, a supporter of the bill (HB 683).

Scott is expected to sign all of the bills into law. He has until Friday, May 23, to act on all of the bills.

'Pot University' in Tampa teaches Marijuana Growing 101...er...420 101?


TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Retired real estate agent Wanda Hurt, 58, is learning how to grow peppers and tomatoes, but when she graduates from Florida's own version of Pot U she'll be equipped to start her own medical marijuana business.

Hurt is one of hundreds of would-be pot producers paying $500 to learn the business after Florida last week joined the march of 22 states permitting limited marijuana use.

"I want to be part of the revolution," said Hurt, from Fort Myers.

The school, officially called Medical Marijuana Tampa, is one of several dozen new Florida businesses hoping to cash in on the cannabis crop.

More here

Video: Rick Scott vs. Common Core haters


Gov. Rick Scott is trying to steer a middle course on education when it comes to Common Core educational standards, but a group of protestors at a recent fundraiser of his just don't appear to buy it.

From a reporter's standpoint, what's noteworthy here is that 1) The governor is able to talk to people about the same topic in depth for more than two minutes and 2) he sounds pretty good defending and advocating what he believes instead of hiding behind pre-polled catch phrases.

In a political move with risks and rewards, Charlie Crist wants to travel to Cuba

@MarcACaputo and @adamsmithtimes

In a move that would have been unthinkable for any statewide Florida candidate just a few years ago, Charlie Crist is planning to visit Cuba this summer.

Nothing is final, but the Democratic candidate for governor is eager to learn more about Cuba as he calls for normalizing relations with the island 90 miles south of Key West.

“We ought to think big. We ought to lift the embargo on Cuba and work with the president and get things done,” Crist said earlier this week during a visit to the Versailles Restaurant in Miami, where he didn’t disclose that he’s considering a visit to the island.

The Little Havana landmark, a frequent Republican campaign spot and exile gathering place, is the last place where you would expect to hear soft-on-embargo positions.

Crist, too, used to support the embargo and backed it as late as 2010 in his failed U.S. Senate bid as a Republican.

Crist’s new position — the latest in a string of reversals — was instantly panned by Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his newly appointed lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

“He’s been a Republican. He has been an independent and a Democrat,” Lopez-Cantera said at a campaign stop Wednesday in Miami. “There’s one party left in Cuba that maybe he’s considering switching to: the Communist Party.”

“It just shows Charlie’s ignorance on the issue of Cuba,” Lopez-Cantera said, adding that that his “family lost everything” and that his grandmother’s brothers were imprisoned by the Castro regime.

Scott said Crist would be a “puppet” of the Castro regime and would help enrich it simply by traveling there.

Full story here

Pot will no longer be cash-only crop under Colorado banking scheme

Colorado lawmakers have approved the world's first financial system for the marijuana industry, a network of uninsured cooperatives designed to give pot businesses a way to access basic banking services.

The plan, approved Wednesday, seeks to move the marijuana industry away from its cash-only roots. Banks routinely reject pot businesses for even basic services such as checking accounts because they fear running afoul of federal law, which considers marijuana and its proceeds illegal.

The result: Pot shop owners deal in large amounts of cash, which makes them targets for criminals. Or they try to find ways around the problem, like drenching their proceeds in air freshener to remove the stink of marijuana and try to fool traditional banks into accepting their money.

"This is our main problem: Financial services for marijuana businesses," said Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial. "We are trying to improvise and come up with something in Colorado to give marijuana business some opportunity, so they do not have to store large amounts of cash."

The U.S. Treasury Department said in February that banks could serve the marijuana industry under certain conditions. With the industry emerging from the underground, states want to track marijuana sales and collect taxes. It's a lot easier to do that when the businesses have bank accounts. Story from AP here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/08/4104797/colorado-lawmakers-approve-plan.html#storylink=cpyColorado became the first state to allow recreational pot sales, which started Jan. 1. Washington state will follow suit, with retail sales expect to start in July.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/08/4104797/colorado-lawmakers-approve-plan.html#storylink=cpy