medical marijuana

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.

 

Weed that boosted Obama from Waikiki to White House coming to Florida soon?

originalChoom may or may  not be opening up in the Sunshine State anytime soon, but these guys get some points for chutzpah if for nothing else.

Canada-based Choom Holdings Inc. makes much of its connection to former President Barack Obama, but more about that later.

Choom, whose CEO is named “Chris Bogart” (we kid you not), announced Monday it intends to enter Florida’s medical marijuana market, as part of its “strategy to become a multi-state operator,” through its wholly owned subsidiary, Choom USA Holdings Inc.

Choom, which trades on the Canadian Stock Exchange, signed a letter of intent to purchase a 95% equity interest in “a Florida-based vertically-integrated cannabis applicant,” according to a press release.

The release doesn’t identify the name of the “applicant,” which is clearly not one of the state’s 14 licensed medical marijuana treatment centers, or the amount of the transaction.

The Florida company “is progressing on its Master License application to operate up to 25 retail locations with potential for more as the number of registered patients increase, as well as, a micro-processing and cultivation facility for medical purposes,” the release says.

It goes on:

Upon completing the transaction, Choom will use its medical brand, Clarity Medical Centres, to create a network of branded Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.  Florida’s medical marijuana program has over 190,000 qualified patients, up from approximately 168,000 at the start of 2019, making it the largest medical marijuana market in the United States.  Florida has recently allowed the use of smokable medical marijuana products, potentially opening the program to a considerably larger audience.

“We are very excited to be expanding into Florida and to bring Choom’s medical brand into that market.  Florida’s medical marijuana program is a very attractive opportunity for us seeing that it allows for vertically-integrated operations and it has been a market we’ve had our sights on for a while now.” states Chris Bogart, President & CEO of Choom. “This investment aligns with our strategy of becoming a multi-state operator in the US and helps us to bolster our growth targets. Florida is home to over 21 million residents and has shown impressive year over year growth on the number of registered patients with a large portion of the market being relatively uncaptured.”

Now for the Obama bit:

The company’s website boasts that the onetime president was an integral member of the “Choom Gang” back in Honolulu, where he graduated from high school in 1979.

Obama was part of a group of buddies who “loved to choom the pakalolo,” or smoke weed, according to the website:

Not only was Obama a member of the Choom Gang, he was the group’s trendsetter—coining a number of their toking terms and protocols, including “roof hits” (the practice of sucking every last whiff of smoke lingering by the roof after hot-boxing a car), “total absorption” (holding in one’s hit for as long as possible, or suffering a one-toke penalty for premature exhalation), and the infamous “interception,” where he’d break rotation to steal an extra hit. In fact, Obama even thanked The Choom Gang “for all the good times” in his high school yearbook!

But here’s our favorite part:

“Yes, that same sweet, sticky sensimilla that led Obama from Waikiki to the White House will be coming to a Choom™ store near you.”

Choom’s pitch veers from the less flamboyant advertising for medical pot, but, hey, they’re hitching their star to a president who also happens to be a super-cool cultural icon.

Choom may claim to be all about “cultivating good times with good friends,” but one Florida cannabis industry expert isn’t buying their come-on.

“It doesn’t appear the subject of this press release involves acquiring an actual asset,” our pro told us. “It appears to be pure speculation in an attempt to bolster their stock.”

 

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.”

#Nosmokeisajoke: Florida laughing stock over MMJ smoking ban

Pot exclamation point!.pngLawyer Michael Minardi, the general counsel for Florida NORML unloaded on a Florida House committee yesterday over the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana.

Minardi, whose website proclaims he’s “The Gold Standard of the Green Industry,” joined other MMJ smoke proponents to shake the Florida House Health and Human Services Committee into axing the prohibition.

Before hearing from the advocates, committee Chairman Ray Rodrigues made a significant concession by stripping a provision that would have required docs to get approval from a “case review panel” before they could order smokable marijuana for patients.

The House plan now would restrict patients to buying pre-rolled joints with filters from licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The advocates aren’t crazy about that provision, but hey, they can always rip off the filters and stuff the weed into a bong or whatev once they get it home, per Ray Rod.

Minardi told the committee that smoke is the number one choice for patients in other states where medical marijuana is legal. (It’s much cheaper than tinctures or vape oils). The committee also heard from patients who admitted they’re smoking weed so they can benefit from the “entourage effect” you can only get from whole flower.

“Patients are going to continue to use flower whether or not you do this (legalize smoking) or not. They’re going to either get it from the black market, as they already are, because they know it’s what works for them. Every other state in this country is laughing at us, saying that we gave our patients tinctures, and we have wax and shatter on the shelves, and not flower,” Minardi said.

“Do you understand the impact of that and how ironic that is? You’re giving them the hard stuff, but not letting them have the beer but take a shot of tequila. That’s what that’s equivalent to,” he went on.

We’re pretty sure that most of the members of the committee have no clue what “wax” or “shatter” is, but who hasn’t had a Dos Equis followed by a shot of Cuervo Gold?

Lawmakers are taking the wrong approach with filters, if they’re concerned about screening toxins out of joints, according to Minardi.

“A bong hit is the best way to do that,” he advised.

The pre-rolled, filtered MMJ “cigarettes” are sure to be a negotiation point between the House and Senate as they try to meet Gov. Ron DeSantis’ March 15 deadline to nix the smoking ban.

Sen. Jeff Brandes’ proposal, approved by the Innovation, Infrastructure and Technology Committee yesterday afternoon, doesn’t have any restrictions on whole flower sold at dispensaries, and would allow patients to buy equipment at smoke shops.

The buy-your-bong-at-a-bong-shop provision will likely be another item on the negotiation table.

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.

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.

The Florida connection to that Super Bowl-banned weed ad and a $63 million pot deal

img_1116CBS generated a lot of buzz by just saying no to a Super Bowl ad trumpeting the benefits of medical marijuana, and of course, #BecauseFlorida, there’s a connection to the Sunshine State.

Acreage Holdings, the Canadian-based MMJ company backed by former Speaker of the House John Boehner, was willing to pay $5 million for a 60-second ad, according to reports. But CBS put the ixnay on the spot.

But the Super Bowl kerfuffle isn’t the only news Acreage made this month.

Acreage Holdings paid $63 million — in CASH $$$$ — to acquire Nature’s Way Nursery of Miami, Inc., also known as Green Owl Pharms, according to a press release issued by the company.

“The combination of policy and demographics in Florida makes it one of the largest growth cannabis markets in the U.S. and we could not be more pleased to close this deal,” said Kevin Murphy, Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Acreage.  With the fourth largest population in the U.S., Florida is expected to quickly become the fifth largest cannabis market with an estimated $1.1 billion in retail cannabis sales by 2022, according to Arcview Market Research.

It’s worth noting that Green Owl hasn’t started selling anything yet, and according to the latest update from OMMU, hasn’t even started cultivating cannabis.

Nature’s Way sued the state failing to get a license way back when from what’s now the Office of Medical Marijuana Use. But, after an administrative law judge scorched the state for using a flawed system to decide which applicants were granted the coveted licenses, the Department of Health settled with Nature’s Way in July and granted them a license.

More from the Jan. 4 press release announcing Acreage — whose legal team includes Florida regulatory whiz John Lockwood — had closed on the Nature’s Way deal:

Acreage paid the shareholders of Nature’s Way $67 million plus assumption of certain transaction expenses of the sellers, with $63 million payable in cash, of which $10 million had previously been escrowed in November at the time the parties signed the definitive transaction agreement.  The remaining $4 million in consideration will be paid in units of a subsidiary of Acreage, High Street Capital Partners, LLC.  The units are exchangeable for Subordinate Voting Shares of Acreage at the election of the holder.

Nature’s Way holds a vertically integrated operating license to operate a cultivation and processing facility as well as up to 30 medical cannabis dispensaries, which Acreage anticipates will carry The Botanist retail banner and soon-to-launch cannabis products. Acreage anticipates that it will invest significant financial capital throughout Florida to build out its cultivation and retail operations.

Acreage already operates in more than a dozen states, including Colorado, California and Massachusetts, according to the company’s website.

The pot license sales keep coming, despite a decided shift in attitude toward MMJ from new Gov. Ron DeSantis, who quickly made separated himself from his predecessor, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. DeSantis blamed lawmakers for creating “cartels” through the state’s current vertical-integration system, and has given them until mid-March to do away with a ban on smoking medical marijuana.