health care

Stew ’em if ya got ’em? Denver hearts magic mushrooms

Because Colorado.

The mile-high city just got higher after Denver voters gave the thumbs-up to a proposal effectively decriminalizing magic mushrooms.

Denver will now become the first city in the nation to give the nod to psilocybin mushrooms, which can cause users to trip their brains out but which studies now show can be useful in treating depression.

Voters narrowly approved the measure by less than 2,000 votes. The Denver Post reports that some ballots have yet to be counted, but they’re not expected to change the results, which will be certified on May 16.

From the Post:

“It’s been one hell of a 21 and a half hours,” Initiative 301 campaign manager Kevin Matthews said. “If these results hold, this is an example of the absurd comedy of the great metaphor. Against all odds, we prevailed. This is what happens when a small team of dedicated and passionate people unite under a single idea to create change.”

The proposal requires the po-po to treat possession of psychedelic shrooms as their lowest priority. It’s similar to an initiative that paved the way for the legalization of pot.

Again, from the Post:

“Our victory here is a clear signal to the rest of the country that we’re ready for a broader conversation around psilocybin and its potential benefits,” said Matthews, a 33-year-old stay-at-home dad.

Whaaat? Big Pharma asks DeSantis to veto Canadian drug importation plan

Move over Don Quixote. Here comes PhRMA President and  Chief Executive Officer Stephen J. Ubl tilting at windmills.

Ubl, head of the officially known as the Pharmaceutical  Manufacturing and Research Association, sent a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, politely congratulating the Republican governor on hitting the milestone of his first 100 days in office.

“I look forward to working alongside you to ensure Floridians have access to affordable medicines and hope you will not hesitate to call upon me if I can ever be of assistance,” Ubl wrote.

Then Ubl asks DeSantis for what seems impossible — a veto of HB 19, the  Canadian drug importation program. Getting Canadian drugs into Florida is DeSantis’ top health care priority, and is also a priority for House Speaker Jose Oliva.

“When this bill is officially sent to your desk, I encourage you to consider vetoing it.,” Ubl wrote. “While your goal of lowering the costs of prescription medicines for Floridians is one I share, the biopharmaceutical industry has serious concerns with any proposal that could put patient safety at risk.”

Ubl outlines several alternatives to the Canadian drug importation program.

“First, we believe that patients should benefit from the more than $166 billion in rebates and discounts provided to insurance companies, pharmacy benefit managers, the government and other entities in the supply chain in 2018,” he wrote. “On average, 40 percent of the list price of medicines are given as rebates, but too often, patients never reap the benefits of these discounts. Ensuring they do is one step you can take to provide relief to the Floridians struggling to afford their medicines.”

The prescription drug importation program was a hotly contested issue during the 2019 session. DeSantis on Saturday joked that the proposal (HB 19) was a “stimulus” for Tallahassee lobbyists who were hired to kill the proposal.

DeSantis was in Washington on Monday discussing the plan, which requires federal approval, with President Donald Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar on the issue.

DeSantis hasn’t received the bill yet; once he does, the governor will have 15 days to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

“Usually people never want to touch prescription drugs because you see all the stuff coming down,” DeSantis told reporters Saturday, referring to an ad blitz blasting the drug importation plan. “But we said, let’s just do the right thing. Let’s hang in there, and that will be better for Florida. I think there was just a lot of opportunities to lead, and I took them, but then these guys in the Legislature took them as well, so that’s a good thing.”

By The News Service of Florida’s health care maven, Christine Sexton.

‘Magic’ mushrooms – the next medical pot?

psychedelic-1084082_1280The mile-high city might be getting even higher if Denver voters sign off on a proposal to decriminalize magic mushrooms.

They’re voting today on the “Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative,” which would “deprioritize, to the greatest extent possible” criminal penalties “for the personal use and personal possession of psilocybin mushrooms.”

The proposal doesn’t legalize shrooms, but it would ban the city from spending any money to impose criminal penalties on folks who possess them.

The magic mushrooms, which have hallucinogenic properties, are a Schedule 1 drug under federal law.

Backers of the initiative point to research showing the health benefits of magic mushrooms (sound familiar?).

One small study found that psilocybin is “showing promise” in treating patients with depression, with the caveat that “its therapeutic mechanisms are poorly understood.”

Microdosing of LSD and magic mushrooms, which doesn’t cause users to trip their brains out, has become a thing among creative genius-types, who claim its positive effects include a boost in production.

We’re trying to think of a city in Florida where voters might give the nod to mind-bending mushrooms. St. Pete? Key West? Tweet @thedarakam with suggestions.

Tucked in proviso: Medicaid managed-care rollout

There were no efforts this legislative session to change how the state’s Medicaid managed-care program would be rolled out under five-year contracts totaling billions of dollars.

Until, that is, it came to health-care budget negotiations.

In a late-night weekend meeting, the Florida House floated proviso language that would require the state to develop a new equitable formula for assigning Medicaid recipients to managed-care plans when they don’t voluntarily make a choice.

The proviso requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to submit to the Legislature no later than August 31 details on how it will change the current assignment process. The proviso also requires the new process to be implemented no later than November 1. The late-night proviso also would eliminate $3 million from the state agency for Health Care Administration’s administrative budget until it delivers the new formula.

The Senate did not agree to the move and the issue remains in flux as lawmakers continue to negotiate the details of the $90 billion budget.

The proposed change in the formula is a move to help two new “provider sponsored networks,” or PSNs, that were awarded five-year contracts. Lighthouse Health Plan is a PSN in Northwest Florida in Medicaid Regions 1 and 2. The latest enrollment figures at AHCA show that 27,060 people enrolled in the plan in March.

The other PSN is Miami Children’s Health Plan which has 12,880 members. That PSN serves children in Medicaid Region 9, which includes Indian River County south to Palm Beach County, and Medicaid Region  11, which includes Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Though the Legislature meets annually and considers hundreds of bills, it only is required by law to pass one: the budget. The state spending plan also is the only bill that must be distributed and available to read for 72 hours before final passage.   The regular legislative session is slated to end May 3, meaning the budget agreement must come Tuesday for lawmakers to wrap on time.

Florida has a mandatory Medicaid managed-care program. The state recently completed a new procurement and signed five-year contracts worth at least $90 billion with different HMOs and PSNs across the state. For contracting purposes, the state is divided into 11 different Medicaid regions.

The proviso language requires AHCA to submit a report to the Senate president and House speaker no later than August 31 detailing how the agency will change the assignment process. The  new process must be implemented no later than November 1.

To help ensure compliance with the mandate,  $3 million in administrative funds is being held in reserve. The agency can ask the Legislature to release the funds when it completes the new plan.

By Christine Sexton.

Gainesville Green goes legit. Plus dope swag

IMG_B049DF48B479-1Hey, who doesn’t want some dope swag, while helping efforts to legalize pot in the Sunshine State?

Those of us who grew up in Florida remember Gainesville Green from back in the day.

The sticky, smelly, smooth-burning weed was renowned for its ass-kicking properties.

Now, the infamous Florida grow is making a splash on the legal market, in conjunction with the state’s largest medical marijuana operator, Trulieve, and partner, Sunshine Cannabis.

The press release announcing its introduction into the medical pot arena reads more like a come-on from High Times than something you’d pick up in your doctor’s office, but, we repeat, who doesn’t want some dope swag? And who doesn’t want to help legalize it in Florida?

Don’t Miss this EVENT! Today from 12pm-4pm in Gainesville Florida at the Heartwood Soundstage we are officially launching Gainesville Green, the most legendary strain from the state of Florida, with the creator of the strain Rick Naya.  This is Truly a historic moment for the Sunshine State, as we bring back the state’s most legendary strain to the legal medical marijuana market.  Tomorrow’s event is not to be missed, we have a bunch of dope swag exclusively made just for this event.  We will be giving away some more recommendations as part of our Sunshine Compassion program.

Some of the proceeds from yesterday’s event went to legalization efforts, according to the release:

Sunshine Cannabis is a Florida first brand committed to YOUR RIGHT to GROW YOUR OWN. Our company was founded with a mission to free the plant and free the seed. This is why we have made an indefinite and ongoing commitment to donating a minimum of 10% of all company proceeds to the Regulate Florida ballot initative to legalize cannabis in the Sunshine State for all adults and give businesses a fair opportunity in Florida. In an ongoing effort to solidify our commitment to Florida we have decided to DOUBLE DOWN on the amount we donate from the proceeds of Gainesville Green sales to Regulate Florida. This is an ongoing and indefinite commitment that will only end WHEN YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO GROW YOUR OWN! #SunshineFam we love you and are working day and night to help increase access to the patients of Florida. Help us free the plant in Florida and Vaporize to Legalize the Sunshine State.

 

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.”

Speaker Oliva: Florida pot system “not terribly free market”

img_0971(1)He’s not calling it a cartel, as Gov. Ron DeSantis did right out of the gate.

But House Speaker José Oliva does admit the state’s vertically integrated medical marijuana system — which requires operators to grow, process and dispense cannabis and related products — “isn’t terribly free market.”

“I couldn’t possibly be a defender of free markets and call that structure a free market,” the Miami Lakes Republican, who made his fortune in his family’s cigar business, told reporters at The Associated Press’s annual pre-session gathering in the Capitol today.

“The limiting of licenses and the limiting of dispensaries is probably the greatest affront to the free-market argument,” he went on.

Whether the Legislature will agree to change the current system during the upcoming session, however, remains a mystery.

When asked about revisiting the state’s MMJ regulatory structure, Senate President Bill Galvano gave a tepid response.

“I expect that bills will be filed in that regard,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, said.

Despite his free-market concerns, Oliva was even less enthusiastic, using a lot of double negatives to describe the House’s position.

“I’m not entirely sure that that’s not something that we will be revisiting this year, because it affects access and it could certainly affect price,” Oliva said. “We’re still trying to get an idea of what kind of demand there really is for this. But I wouldn’t disagree … It hasn’t been a terribly free-market process.”

Shortly after taking office, DeSantis bashed vertical integration and the caps on licenses.

But this week, the governor appeared to walk back his opposition to those issues, focusing instead on his demand that the Legislature do away with the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana.

Here’s what Oliva said when we asked him if doing away with vertical integration would destabilize a market in which licenses have sold for tens of millions of dollars — including one transaction in which a license sold for $63 million in cash earlier this month.

“If the question is, would having a more free-market approach destabilize the private market, in particular the value of these licenses, well, sure, that’s what markets do,” the speaker said, making us feel a little foolish for asking the question, TBH.

“If the question is, will it destabilize the market and its ability to bring forth products that are safe and traceable and consistent, I don’t think it will do that. So, yeah, if you put more houses on the market, chances are you’ll have to lower the price of your house,” he concluded.

Oh, and about that repeal of the smoking prohibition the governor wants?

DeSantis may be forced to carry through on his threat to drop the appeal in the lawsuit over smokable medical marijuana, based on what the legislative leaders said today.

To put it mildly, Oliva’s not keen on allowing patients to smoke their medicine.

“Is one to believe that an 8-year-old child should be smoking marijuana and inhaling smoke into their lungs? I’ve been in the smoke business my entire life, and I’ve never heard anyone say it’s good for you,” he said.

The speaker indicated the push for smokable MMJ is just a ploy to open the door to recreational weed.

“Is medicine a façade and a masquerade for recreational marijuana? If it is, that won’t be very supported by the House. If we really want to look at marijuana, and what ailments it can truly relieve and people it can actually benefit, then that’s what we’re looking at,” Oliva said.