Florida Cabinet

Fried: State should crack down on rogue pot docs

img_1116State medical boards should take action against Florida physicians who are inappropriately recommending medical marijuana for their patients, Florida Cabinet member and state Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried said Tuesday.

“Our priority is making sure we have professionals inside of this program,” said Fried, a Democrat and former medical marijuana lobbyist who ran for the statewide Cabinet post last year  on the promise of making medical marijuana more easily accessible to those who qualify.

“But, of course, if any doctors are getting in the program and are unethically prescribing and recommending the medical marijuana, that’s something that we need to look into and that’s something for the Board of Medicine to have some swift action on,” she added.

The News service of Florida reported in December that a new state analysis prepared for the Legislature shows that the number of Floridians using medical marijuana continues to grow despite a slow rollout.

In the first nine months of 2018, more than 136,000 patients across the state received certifications from 1,070 physicians to receive medical marijuana.

In all, those patients received 174,254 certifications — some could have received multiple certifications — for a host of medical conditions that qualify them to use marijuana. That included 41,143 certifications, or nearly 24 percent of the overall total, for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The report, issued by the Physician Certification Pattern Review Panel, also shows that physicians in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties accounted for more than 30 percent of the medical marijuana certifications between January and Sept. 30.

The average medical-marijuana dose ordered was 372 milligrams per day, according to the data. But in Highlands County, where 470 patients were certified to receive the drugs, the average dose was 3,956 milligrams.

And in Nassau County, where two patients were reported as being certified, the average dose ordered was 17 milligrams.

Thirty-one states allow patients to use medical marijuana, including nine states that also have approved marijuana for recreational purposes.

Lawmakers in 2017 passed a state law authorizing the use of medical marijuana, which was approved by Florida voters in November 2016.  The new law required Florida’s two medical boards to form a joint committee that examines and analyzes the ordering patterns for physicians who certify patients. The panel is required to annually submit a report to the governor and legislative leaders. The new report is the first time such a document has been produced and submitted to the Legislature.

The Legislature is expected to address medical marijuana when it meets in its regular 60-day legislative session that is scheduled to begin March 5.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana runs afoul the intent of amendment, and has given lawmakers until March 15 to repeal the smoking ban.

— By The News Service of Florida staff writer Christine Sexton.

“Mechanical failures” right out of the gate prompt Oliva, Fried to call for state plane

galerie_military_aviation1That didn’t take long.

For just the handful of days since he was sworn in Tuesday, new Gov. Ron DeSantis has been buzzing around the state on a plan seized in a drug bust by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But as DeSantis and his entourage were en route to a press conference in South Florida Friday afternoon, the plane was diverted to St. Petersburg due to “mechanical failures,” according to the governor’s office. On board with the governor were Attorney General Ashley Moody; DeSantis’ chief of staff, Shane Strum; and three other EOG aides, according to the governor’s office.

Former Gov. Rick Scott, a mega-millionaire who used his own private jet to travel around the state, sold off the state plane shortly after taking office as part of a government cost-cutting spree.

But DeSantis, with a reported net worth of just over $310,000, likely doesn’t have the dough to plunk down for an air bus.

The “mechanical failures” of the plane carrying the governor of the nation’s third-largest state — which, oh by the way, has an annual budget of more than $80 billion and is, dare we point out, gosh-darn HUGE — and one of its three Cabinet members, days after they took office, drew a hasty response from House Speaker Jose Oliva on the “need for safe and reliable transportation for the governor.”

“The Members of the House of Representatives are thankful that the Governor’s plane landed safely after reporting mechanical difficulties.  Today’s incident, combined with the sheer size of our state, starkly reminds us that we need a safe and reliable means of transportation for the chief executive. The House stands ready to work with the Governor’s office to ensure such transportation is obtained,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said in a statement.
The plane isn’t available to Cabinet members, just DeSantis, but Moody was part of the group headed to the Fort Lauderdale area for the press conference where the governor announced he had suspended embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
The plane kerfuffle prompted new Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to chime in.

“As statewide public servants in one of the largest states in the nation, an efficient method of air transportation is prudent to best serve our constituents, conduct state business, and carry out the duties of our offices. Cost-effective and responsible use of state aircraft would enhance our situational response and our availability to the people of Florida. I’m grateful that Governor DeSantis, Attorney General Moody, and all onboard landed safely – today’s aircraft incident underscores the importance of dependable transportation for Cabinet members,” Fried said in a statement.

 

 

 

IHOW: DeSantis, at first pre-Cabinet gaggle, says the word “climate,” but …

screen shot 2019-01-11 at 11.22.41 amCapping a week of firsts for Gov. Ron DeSantis, the newly minted chief of state held his premiere pre-Cabinet press conference this morning.

A relaxed DeSantis, who held the gaggle in the governor’s large conference room, spent about 10 minutes fielding a handful of questions from reporters ranging septic tanks to his pal President Donald Trump’s proposed diversion of disaster recovery funds to pay for a border wall.

DeSantis spoke about his trip to Hurricane Michael-wracked Mexico Beach, his appointment of a Cuban-American female Supreme Court justice,  and a sweeping water policy announcement delivered in three parts of the state with water woes.

In response to a query from Florida Politics’ Jim Rosica about whether he believes in climate change, DeSantis used the word “climate” but didn’t directly answer the question.

“We put in that executive order that, as climate changes and our environment changes, water rises in places in South Florida and there’s increased flooding, we want to make sure that we’re taking steps that we can to combat that. We’re going to create an Office of Resiliency to try to combat effects,” DeSantis said.

“Look, to me, I’m not even concerned about, is it this sole cause, that sole cause, when you have water in the streets you have to find a way to combat that. So we’re going to work to do that. I think this office will be able to coordinate a thoughtful response based on…”

Rosica: “Do you agree with many scientists that that humans do cause climate change?”

DeSantis: “Next, next question.”

The climate change discussion was a follow-up to a question about the impact of septic tanks on the nutrient run-off that’s causing algal blooms.

Here’s DeSantis’ take on the septic tank issue:

“In our exec order, we directed DEP to establish a septic-to sewer grant conversion grant program, where local governments would have to put up money but then we would match it. So I think that is a factor, but I don’t think that is exclusively the factor. I think that you have a lot of nutrients put into Lake Okeechobee, that obviously, when the Army Corps is discharging that water, that is aggravating some of the algae bloom that’s caused huge problems on both our coasts,” DeSantis said.

Gatehouse Media reporter John Kennedy followed up by pointing out that the Legislature has been “pretty friendly” toward the sugar industry and agriculture in the past.

As he did yesterday, DeSantis insisted water quality issue isn’t an R or D issue.

“At the end of the day, what we’ve been able to show is these issues in Florida really do not fall on partisan lines. How the Legislature is divided in the past, I think is probably yesterday. I think now going forward people realize… I can go in the most rock river Republican party in Southwest Florida, they tell you about the water. I can go talk to liberal environmentalists, they talk about it. They want us to deal with the water. I just think there’s just such a huge majority of folks in Florida who support making sure we get this right, that I think the legislators are going to listen. Yesterday we had legislators from all across the state who were with us. We had folks in Lee County. We had people in Sarasota. We had people in Martin County. This has not been as salient an issue in the past as it is now.”

DeSantis’ last question, from Emily Mahoney, was focused on Trump’s reported consideration of steering money earmarked for hurricane victims in Florida — and disaster victims in other states — to cover the $5.7 billion Congress is refusing to give him for the border wall.

The Tampa Bay Times reporter asked the governor how the president’s plan would affect Florida and whether he’s spoken to Trump about it.

“I have not,” DeSantis said. “I don’t know, because I just don’t know the details. In all my years in Congress, we never dealt with this idea of an emergency. So I need to look at the law and figure out how it is. My sense is, just as somebody who’s studied the Constitution, the president wouldn’t be able to just appropriate his own money under any circumstances. He may be able to re-purpose some money. I’m not sure how that works. Obviously anything that was done on the disaster front, we have people that are counting on that. If they backfill it immediately after the government opens, that’s fine. But I don’t want that to be where that money is not available for us.”