Author: Dara Kam

Wake and bake: Florida college doing cannabis prep

Pot exclamation point!With Florida medical pot sales topping $3 billion last year, at least one state college is unrolling a suite of courses to help students cash in on the Sunshine State’s green wave.

Starting this fall, Miami Dade Colleg’s north campus will offer three classes that will eventually become part of a Cannabis Industry Science Specialist credit certificate program, according to a press release issued by MDC Wednesday.

The program is “currently being developed by a team of dedicated faculty from MDC’s School of Science and the School of Justice,” the release states.

Here’s the rest of the blurb:

The new courses include Biology of Cannabis, Chemistry of Cannabis, and Florida Cannabis Policy and Regulation. Students will learn the biology of cannabis plants, metabolites and physiology of cannabis plants, as well as the current laws, policies and regulations of the medical marijuana industry. In addition, a speaker series will present nationally-established experts in the field to educate the public and guide the understanding of the scientific foundations, the essence and potential of this industry.

The cannabis industry is booming and companies are opening new positions throughout the United States as medical marijuana is now legalized in more than 30 states. There are currently more than 230,000 individuals employed by the legal cannabis industry. According to a report from Arcview Market Research, that number is expected to nearly double by 2021. Florida grew its cannabis employment by 703% in 2018, adding more than 9,000 full-time jobs, a Leafly report states.

Glassdoor indicates salaries range from $22,000 for medicinal marijuana delivery drivers to $215,000 for individuals with medical and/or legal expertise. The median salary is $58,511, which is 10.7% higher than the average job in the U.S. Those positions require comprehensive knowledge of the various aspects of the industry, an in-depth understanding of medicinal properties and varieties of marijuana plants and products, as well as the emerging legal aspects and laws of each state.

“With its alignment of existing academic programs and the established reputation of excellence at the School of Science and the School of Justice, MDC’s North Campus is uniquely poised to be the very first in the Florida State College system to offer a certificate program in Cannabis Industry Science Specialist,” said Dr. Malou C. Harrison, President of MDC’s North and Interamerican Campuses. “The certificate will offer a rigorous sequence of introductory courses designed to equip students with the foundation and scientific knowledge to thrive in this emerging field and job market.”

This year’s (Aaron) Bean bar: “Game of Bills”

img_7337-1.jpegSen. Aaron Bean’s doubled as Tom Selleck, Luke Skywalker and a member of the Duck Dynasty clan.

This year, the Fernandina Beach Republican is adding Tormund Giantsbane to the collection of characters he’s appeared as on the candy bars he gives out during the legislative session.

Bean points out that the 2019 Bean bar features the “Game of Thrones” font,  includes a play on the show’s “Winter is Coming” come-on, and has a tag line of Best Wishes on Your ‘Game of Bills.’

In the Star Wars-themed candy bar wrapper, Bean made a pun out of his Senate District 4: “May the Fourth Be With You.”

“It’s good to have a sense of humor, I think,” the high-spirited senator told Truth or Dara Thursday afternoon.

IMG_1693The ebullient Bean even distributes the chocolate bars to some of the Capitol press corps, whose shrinking numbers hasn’t gone unnoticed by the senator.

“Nobody gives the press anything but grief. That’s what they give ya. You get grief!” he said.

The fifth estate “is a central part of the process,” Bean said.

“It makes everybody better, knowing that the 21 million Floridians are watching, reading or listening to what we do here every day. And that’s the bottom line. How ‘bout that? We need you here,” he said.

Bean said he recently read a story detailing how “more and more bureaus are closing, consolidating,” adding that “the model is changing.”

The role of the press is “vital, vital,” he said, even making a pitch for next week’s  Press Skits.

“That’s going to be fun. Do you know? I was in ‘em two years ago. So that’s good. You raise money for charity,” Bean said.

Dems to Putnam: Don’t let the door hit you …

Former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s exit from the public sector — and from the Sunshine State — won’t be missed by the Florida Democratic Party.

unnamedMemphis-based Ducks Unlimited on Wednesday named Putnam, who was the “establishment” favorite in last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary but was trounced by Gov. Ron DeSantis, as its chief executive.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe bid an actual “good riddance” to the former congressman from Bartow.

“Over the course of his twenty-year career in politics, Adam Putnam endangered Floridians’ safety, helped destroy our environment and turned the Department of Agriculture into a national embarrassment,” Donohoe said in a statement. “Putnam is the ultimate career politician and his name will forever be associated with scandal, incompetence and corruption in Florida. Putnam always promised to put Florida First, and he’s finally done that by leaving the state and giving up on public life. Good riddance.”

The announcement from Ducks Unlimited notes that Putnam “plans to move to Memphis in the coming months.”

“My vision for DU is to bring together conservation-minded folks from all walks of life, whether they’re farmers, city-dwellers, veterans, biologists, hunters…anyone who has a connection to landscapes, which is everyone,” Putnam said in DU release. “If we are going to fill the skies with waterfowl, we must build a coalition of people who believe waterfowl-filled skies matter. We need to work together to reach a common goal of healthy wetlands and abundant water for wildlife, people and their communities across North America.”

By Jim Turner.

Andrew Gillum’s a tease

Andrew Gillum’s toying with us.

The Tallahassee Democrat, who narrowly lost a bid for governor to Republican Ron DeSantis in November, teased supporters and critics today with a slick “save the date” video come on.

The promo features chants of Gillum’s iconic “Bring It Home” campaign slogan in the background, alongside tidbits from the trail.

Gillum, who lost to DeSantis by .4 percentage points last year, recently joined CNN as a political analyst.

After a surprise primary election victory, the former Tallahassee mayor had hoped to make Florida history by becoming the state’s first black governor. DeSantis dashed those dreams, but not before his gubernatorial effort skyrocketed the Florida Democrat onto the national stage.

Despite his November loss, Gillum’s been rumored to be considering a run for president in an already crowded Democratic field.

Will that be the “major announcement” coming on March 20, or will Gillum throw his support behind one of the other contenders?

In an email to supporters Friday morning, Gillum said “what we fought for last year still holds true today” and hammered on the anti-Donald Trump theme invoked against the president’s pal, DeSantis, last year.

“Health care should be a right and not a privilege. Teachers should be paid what they are worth. Our water and air should be safe for our children.

And most importantly: we need to do everything in our power to make Donald Trump a one-term president.

This fight is about the future of our state and our nation. I’m not going anywhere — and I know neither are you. We have to stand strong and speak out.

I believe that we will win. I’ll see you on March 20.”

 

Galvano on “awkward moment” in DeSantis SOS speech

DeSantis SOSGov. Ron DeSantis delivered his first State of the State speech to kick off the 2019 legislative session today, covering a wide range of topics and boasting about a variety of accomplishments since the Republican took office in January.

DeSantis bragged about ousting former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who was harshly criticized for how his office handled the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year. DeSantis replaced Israel with Gregory Tony.

Israel has appealed his suspension to the Florida Senate, which has the power to reinstate or remove elected officials.

During his remarks Tuesday, DeSantis noted that Israel’s suspension “will come before the Senate soon,” adding “the failures of the former sheriff are well-documented.”

“Why any senator would want to thumb his nose at the Parkland families and to eject Sheriff Tony, who is doing a great job and has made history as the first African-American sheriff in Broward history, is beyond me,” the governor said.

When asked about his remarks later, DeSantis spoke about the families of the 17 students and school staff who were slain.

“Those families were really frustrated that action had not been taken against him. I did it within a couple days because to me, I thought it should have been done. It was just a point that not only did that give satisfaction to families but we have a guy in there now who’s really making positive changes,” DeSantis told reporters.

The governor said he’s “not worried at all” about the Senate process.

“But I do think it was an important action we took early in the administration. I just wanted to highlight it,” he said.

Senate President Bill Galvano, who appointed former House Rep. Dudley Goodlette as special master to oversee Israel’s appeal and make recommendations, wasn’t keen on DeSantis’ veiled threat.

“Of everything that was in that speech, that was a bit of an awkward moment for the governor,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, told reporters.

Galvano said he asked himself if a senator made a comment about the Broward sheriffs but didn’t believe that was the case.

“Look, he has every right to suspend him and has his reasons for doing so. But the Senate also has a role, and we’re going to do it right. We’re going to have due process and we’re going to vet through the suspension and we’ll make a decision. I’ve asked our senators to give it the respect that it’s due and not to prejudge. That’s the role of the Senate. I’ve said this before. We’re not just going to be a rubber stamp for the governor,” he said.

Carlos Guillermo Smith knows hate crimes are real

 

Chicago’s police chief is accusing”Empire” star Jussie Smollett of using the “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career” by paying two men to stage an attack on him last month.

The allegations concerning Smollett, who is black and gay, sparked an international avalanche of commentary, but one state representative who’s weighing in has more than a passing interest in the matter.

“I decided to finally tell this very deeply personal story because the reality is that hate crimes are real. Homophobia is real. Bigotry is real. And hate violence is on the rise against many groups. Anti-semitism is on the rise. Hate violence against transgender women of color is on the rise, especially in Florida,” Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said in a telephone interview Thursday evening.

Smith, an Orlando Democrat who is openly gay, spoke with us after he tweeted about his experience as a survivor of “senseless hate violence” when he was a University of Central Florida senior in 2003.

In a telephone interview Thursday evening, Smith recounted the evening 16 years ago when a keg party turned into a gay-bashing attack on him and his roommate, Heath Frank.

The attacker, identified as “Eduardo Alessandro Mongio” in court documents provided by Smith, was “lingering around” and “acting kind of weird” at the crowded party, Smith said.

Other witnesses later said they heard Mongio making homophobic remarks, but “I never heard any of that,” Smith said.

But at some point a bloodied Frank came back inside the apartment, Smith recalled.

“He was red in the face. He was crying. I’m like, Heath, what’s wrong? He said, it’s nothing. Let’s go. Let’s go,” Smith said.

But when they went outside, Mongio confronted Smith and started punching him in the head and face.

“I didn’t know what was going on. But I got banged up pretty bad. When the dust settled, everyone was telling me about how the guy was making all these homophobic slurs about our group, because hey listen, we travel in cliques. We queer people, we stick together,” Smith said. “I don’t remember if the guy was drunk or what his deal was but he started lashing out at . It was like a full-fledged gay-bashing.”

Smith, who was still trying to piece together the events of more than a decade-and-a-half ago, said the police were called and Mongio was arrested. Once in the cop car, according to the police report, Mongio threatened to “get that fucker” and repeatedly referred to Smith and Frank as “faggots.”

“But I remember, the next day, I was so down on myself. I was humiliated. I was embarrassed. It’s hard to describe the feeling that you have when you’ve survived hate violence and you’re not sure what to do with it, especially when you’re young. I was like, what just happened,” he said.

Former state Rep. Joe Saunders, who was one of Florida’s first openly gay legislators and who was one of Smith’s close friends at college, told Smith the campus was “stunned” by the attack.

Saunders quickly penned “his first press release” and organized a rally where students — including Smith, who later worked with Saunders at Equality Florida — demanded that the university update its non-discrimination policy to include LGBT students.

Mongio was charged with two counts of “battery, evidencing prejudice,” and disorderly conduct. Prosecutors later dropped the hate-crimes enhancer — which could have added another five to 10 years to Mongio’s sentence — and the disorderly conduct charge after he agreed to plea no contest to the battery charges. He was sentenced to 312 days in the Orange County Jail followed by a year of probation.

And Mongio’s sentence also required sensitivity training, an anger management course, and a letter of apology to Smith, according to the court record.

Smith said he “felt compelled to speak out” as the controversy around Smollett exploded.

“I don’t know what the outcome is going to become of the Jussie Smollett case. But I can already see there’s a narrative out there that hate crimes aren’t real. No. They are. And they’re on the rise. Especially with the election of Donald Trump, who wears hate for other groups on his sleeve,” he said.

Smith said he feels “like justice was served” in his case. But he knows that’s not every other survivor’s experience.

“Even though it hasn’t defined me as a person, it absolutely is part of my experience as an out gay man, as an activist, as a lawmaker who cares deeply about issues of fairness and equality,” he said. “I think that people who now know this about me, they understand why I’m such a passionate advocate for my community. It doesn’t define who I am but it’s part of my experience.”

Rick Scott gets hung up

He’s back. Sort of.

20190219_131646

With no fanfare we’re aware of, the official portrait of Florida’s 45th governor, Rick Scott, appeared on the wall beside other recent chiefs of state in the hallway.

The portrait of Scott, who’s now a U.S. senator, shows the former governor seated on the desk in what used to be his office. The background features a Florida flag and a picture of his wife, Ann.

Here’s a little Florida history about the portraits, from the Museum of Florida History:

Beginning with Governor Francis Fleming in the 1890s, every chief executive of Florida has had an official portrait painted and hung in the state capitol building. Over the years, an interesting variety of artistic styles has accumulated. In the mid-1950s, the state legislature commissioned Tallahassee artist Clarabel Jett (1908–96) to create oil-enhanced photographs of all Florida governors whose portraits were not yet in the state collection. In 1986, the legislature transferred custody of the portrait collection to the Museum of Florida History.

All of the Governor’s portraits are represented at the Historic Capitol. The more recent governors’ portraits appear in the first-floor hallway of the new Capitol, beginning with Claude Kirk (1967-1971). In keeping with the tradition of official governors’ portraits, our current governor, Ron DeSantis, will not commission his portrait until the end of his term.

By Jim Turner.