medical marijuana

The opposite of buzzkill? More pot workers than dental hygenists

There are more pot workers than dental hygienists or bakers, nationwide, according to Marijuana Business Daily, a marijuana-industry publication.

6-26-17-COTW-Revised-e1498251123994

Cannabis-related businesses now employ more people than there are dental hygienists and bakers in the United States and will soon surpass the number of telemarketers and pharmacists,” according to the industry mag’s Eli McVey.

The marijuana industry — which could generate up to $20 billion, according to some predictions — is set to explode in Florida, which is gearing up for implementation of the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana for an estimated 400,000-500,000 patients within the next year.

With 29 states — including Florida — having legalized medical marijuana, the industry is now turning efforts to a push for recreational use, now permitted in seven states and the District of Columbia.

On airport marijuana ban, thoughts on traveling with insulin

IMG_2721Patients won’t be able to bring their pot treatment with them when traveling through the Orlando International Airport.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Board approved the marijuana ban yesterday.

Click here to watch WFTV‘s report on the ban.

This got me thinking about the problems I encountered traveling in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Airport authorities were extremely nervous about liquids, even in small amounts.

I’ve been an insulin-dependent, Type I diabetic for more than … well, for a long time.

Type-I diabetic, for those who don’t know, means I need insulin to stay alive.

But that didn’t matter to some of the airport folks.

I once was prohibited from traveling with my insulin (which comes in vials or pens clearly marked as medicine).

I scrapped my trip, rather than risk going without my life-saving meds.

After that, I traveled with a notarized letter from my doctor attesting to the fact that these medications were critical.

One of the problems, I learned over the years, was that airport authorities in and out of the state treated my insulin in disparate ways.

Sometimes, they ignored it.

Other times, I was subjected to a super-duper special search after the slim needle on a syringe or insulin pen caught the attention of a security tech, who feared the metal object on her X-ray screen indicated the presence of a bomb. (I’ll save the story about the time my daughter’s teddy bear — with a music box — resulted in an airport bomb squad and dog-sniffing search for another day.)

And on a few occasions, I was forced to explain my medical condition and my treatment while a long line of stocking-footed, impatient travelers piled up behind me.

According to yesterday’s report by the television station, Orlando airport law enforcement officials say they’re not going to go out of their way to sniff out pot travelers.

Further complicating the issue, while Florida law bars patients from smoking “whole flower” — dudes, we call it “bud” — the sale of whole flower for use in vaporizers isn’t prohibited.

After reporting on MMJ for years, I know that marijuana is viewed, like insulin, as a life-saving treatment for some patients. I was inches away from a man who had an epileptic seizure while he awaited his turn to testify before a Senate committee earlier this year. His wife pleaded with attendees for marijuana-based CBD oil, while awaiting emergency personnel. The man, Michael Bowen, serves on the board of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

But, unlike the medicine I’ve been taking for oh-so-long, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, posing a legitimate problem for law enforcement officials at airports and, most certainly, other transportation hubs.

Traveling with insulin within the U.S. has become a lot less problematic for me in the past few years. I don’t even have a letter from my doctor anymore, but an escalation in international terrorist attacks has prompted me to ask her for an updated authorization.

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who’s been instrumental in passing the state’s medical marijuana legislation, calls the era in which dozens of states, including Florida, have legalized MMJ “a brand new world.” (Is he aware of the Aldous Huxley reference to hallucinogens?)

Traveling with treatment is just one part of that brave new world, for patients, law enforcement, and elected officials contemplating new policies.

Morgan ready to sue state over smokable pot

budOrlando trial lawyer John Morgan appears prepared to make good on threats to sue the state over implementation of the constitutional amendment, which he bankrolled, that legalized marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

“Great Scott!! I’ll be filing my lawsuit for smoke as soon as it goes into law. Independence Day 🇺🇸 #NoSmokeIsAJoke,” Morgan (@JohnMorganESQ) promised on Twitter today.

Morgan’s tweet references a quote from Gov. Rick Scott, who pledged to sign into law a measure (SB 8A), passed by lawmakers during the special session earlier this month, that lays out the framework for the constitutional amendment, approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November.

Morgan has vowed to sue over the issue of whether patients should be able to smoke the marijuana treatment.

Despite Morgan’s threats, the proposal now awaiting Scott’s signature bans smoking of marijuana, but it does allow patients to vape marijuana products.

In a recent interview, Morgan said that’s not good enough.

“(Smoking) clearly was called for in the amendment, and so what they’ve done for me is allowed me to step back up on my soapbox and go get what the people of Florida wanted when they passed this bill with 71 percent,” Morgan, who is mulling a bid for governor next year, told The News Service of Florida  after the Legislature signed off on the proposal on June 9.

John Morgan on weed, caps and “gross” politics

IMG_0610Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan weighed in on the medical marijuana measure approved by lawmakers Friday afternoon, pledging yet again to sue the state over the ban on smoking as a treatment option for patients.

The legislation also caps the number of dispensaries each marijuana operator can run at 25. Vendors can buy dispensary “slots” from each other, making it possible for them to exceed the caps.

Morgan, a major Democratic fundraiser who is mulling a bid for governor next year, shrugged off the caps.

“I don’t think any of the patients care about the caps. When you get right down to it, marijuana’s marijuana. They’re trying to make this like craft beer, with flavors like orange blossom and honey,” Morgan said.

Morgan — who’s eager to plunk some major greenbacks into the green rush — predicted that competition will resolve the cap issue.

“At the end of the day, the way things work in America is that the weak go away and the strong survive,” he said.

The focus on the caps “was all about money and profit and nothing about the patients,” Morgan said, adding that he isn’t concerned about the caps, which are scheduled to sunset in 2020.

While he may not care about caps, Morgan’s on fire about the ban on smoking. He pledged to make good on his threat to sue the state over the issue, saying that voters clearly expected to be able to smoke marijuana as a treatment when they overwhelmingly supported the measure in November.

Asked about a provision in the bill that forces health officials, when choosing new marijuana operators, to give special preference to applicants currently or previously involved in “the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses,” Morgan called it “gross.”

“It’s just pay to play. It’s politics. It’s everybody crowding around the sugar cube trying to get some sugar. It’s kind of gross but then again politics is really gross. If you’re on the receiving end, you’re happy about it. If you’re on the losing end, you’re not,” he said.

Morgan plans to “invest heavily” in the industry he’s largely responsible for introducing to Florida.

“I believe that this is going to be a gigantic industry for a very good purpose and I like the idea now, after shilling it for all these years, I like the idea of being in it. And I’m a capitalist,” Morgan, whose portfolio includes law offices in a number of other states and theme parks.

Finally, Morgan said he’s content to stay on the sidelines while the 2018 governor’s race heats up.

“I believe I’m much better off watching the field run and expand,” he said. “I’m lucky that I don’t have to do what they have to do, which is go out and give speeches in the back room of Denny’s at 7 a.m. in the morning for $25 donations, and then spend that money for name recognition,” said Morgan, whose visage — and name — is featured on billboards and TV ads throughout the state. “I don’t have to do that. I have the luxury to wait until next spring if I want.”

Quick pot bites from the floor

Lawmakers are set to pass a roll-out of Amendment 2, the constitutional proposal overwhelmingly approved by voters last year that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients.

Yesterday’s debate over the pot legislation — which would add 10 MMJ licenses to the state’s current 7 operators and set a cap of 25 dispensaries per operator (sort of) — included some exchanges that elicited groans, giggles and gasps from the 5th floor press galleries and others observing the fireworks.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who sponsored an amendment that would have allowed patients to smoke marijuana products said the smoking ban is unconstitutional.

“There’s going to e a lawsuit and we’re going to lose,” he said.

Clemens also rejected arguments that patients shouldn’t be allowed to smoke pot because smoking isn’t healthy, pointing out that some patients are terminally ill or suffer from diseases like ALS.

“Are we really going to tell those folks that we’re worried about your lung health 30 years down the road when you’ve got six months to live? That’s absurd,” he said.

Questions about who would benefit from a component of the bill that would give preference to current or one-time citrus processors who want to gain entree into the pot industry were largely left unanswered.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, offered an amendment on the floor that would have stricken the provision from the bill, using an olfactory analogy to prove his point.

“You and I know this doesn’t smell right,” Brandes, who has pushed a broad expansion of the marijuana market.”There are industries that go in and out of business all the time.
You should allow a process that allows everyone to compete.”

Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican who once served as president of the chamber, backed him up.

“Enough’s enough,” Lee said, adding that the provision should have allowed health officials to also give preference to other facilities “situated for reuse” in blighted or economically depressed areas. “But my guess is this is for one company. We’re just about soon to find out who it is. For me enough’s enough. Enough’s enough.”

That drew an explanation from Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.

“First of all, the way this language is written is for no one that is guaranteed a license. It is very specific that says you have a better opportunity,” Simpson said in what was, for him, an unusually long response.

Simpson said health officials might give the citrus processors “two additional points” when scoring the applications, and that the provision could help a failing industry.

In certain parts of the state, “you will see these large factories that used to be orange (producers) with hundreds of jobs and sometimes thousands of jobs,” Simpson said.

“Dade City, Florida, had two of these facilities. Both are gone. And today we have more than 20 of these facilities where farmers and groups of farmers have tens of millions of dollars of capital tied up in these facilities and now they are shuttered. This amendment simply says that in the process of adding to license holders they can have a consideration of favorability, all other things being equal,” he said. “These are food-grade facilities. These aren’t just farmers with stands on the side of the road.”

In the lower chamber, a discussion of the ban on smoking included in the legislation prompted an intra-party dispute.

Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat who was instrumental in the passage of the state’s 2014 low-THC marijuana law, read from the language of the amendment, which said that smoking can be forbidden in public places.

She noted that lawmakers are being hammered by proponents of the measure who insist that the amendment allows patients to smoke pot products, a campaign that’s generated the hashtag #nosmokeisajoke.

“It’s very easy to get sidetracked and come up with hashtags and campaigns,” Edwards, a lawyer, said. “I do not want us to be sued. Nobody here wants to be sued because you know what? A lawsuit benefits one attorney, one firm. It does not help us get this to the patients quicker.”

Rob Bradley predicted the medical marijuana legislation would evolve into an annual examination, much like fights over alcohol laws.

“We are going to open this law and revisit it and tweak it every year. There’s an alcohol bill every year. …and there’s going to be a marijuana bill every year,” Bradley, who’s been in charge of the pot legislation for the past three years.

Bradley also defended an element of the bill that allows local governments to ban dispensaries but, cities and counties can’t limit the number of retail outlets if they permit them at all.

“I’ll be very frank. This language makes some of the incumbents mad. This language makes some of the counties and cities not particularly happy,” he said.

The provision was intended to “strike a balance” between local control and guaranteeing access to medical marijuana to patients, Bradley said.

“This is not a joke. This isn’t Cheech and Chong. This is serious medicine, and it should be treated as such,” he said.

Scott medical marijuana research vetoes not a problem, at least for now

IMG_2721Amid all the consternation over medical marijuana, Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s $400 million-plus vetoes included more than $3 million for cannabis research.

Scott axed $2 million for the University of Florida’s cannabis research initiative. UF was originally tasked with tracking the state’s high-CBD, low-THC law passed in 2014. But the university was never enthusiastic about the endeavor, in part because cannabis remained illegal under federal law, raising questions for university officials about whether pot research might undermine funding for other programs.

This year, lawmakers steered more than $1 million in pot research toward the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute for the “Coalition for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education Board,” an entity created by the Legislature during the 2017 session in a measure that never passed.

Scott vetoed $370,000 for to create the board at the Moffitt Center because the Tampa-based center “received a total of $10.6 million in Fiscal Year 2017-2018 and has the ability to fund this initiative,” according to the governor’s veto message.

Scott also red-lined $750,000 for pot research at the center because it was contingent upon legislation that never passed.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who was instrumental in the passage of the 2014 low-THC bill and has been a major player in the marijuana legislation that failed to pass this year, said he was bummed that Scott vetoed the MMJ research money.

But Bradley told The News Service of Florida Monday he’s not overly troubled that Scott axed the funding for the UF research.

“The center of gravity, in terms of where medical marijuana research and data collection is going to take place, is moving away from the University of Florida and towards Moffitt,” Bradley said.

While UF may have had a stone-faced approach to the pot research, the Moffitt Center — founded by onetime House speaker Lee Moffitt, a Democrat — was enthusiastic about the endeavor.

Bradley said he was “very disappointed” in Scott’s veto of the Moffitt funds, which totaled more than $1 million.

But he predicted the research has a shinier future, once the Legislature officially creates the research-centered coalition based at Moffitt .

“I think that will make the argument much more compelling to include that in future budgets. So I’m confident that in the future this won’t be an issue,” Bradley said.

— Posted by Dara Kam

Slouching toward special session on pot

IMG_0600Senate President Joe Negron said Thursday that House and Senate leaders are working toward a deal on the roll-out of a voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

Legislators will almost certainly deal with medical marijuana during a special session at some point this summer, even if Gov. Rick Scott’s handling of the budget doesn’t force the Legislature back to the Capitol anyway.

Negron told The News Service of Florida Thursday that “there are ongoing discussions” between the House and Senate focused on “trying to reach a middle ground on the licenses and dispensaries issues.”

The number of marijuana operators — now at seven — and how many retail outlets they can each run were the major sticking points between the two chambers during the regular session that ended last month.

The Senate favored more vendors but wanted to limit the number of storefronts they could operate. The House supported a plan with fewer marijuana operators who could each open up to 100 retail stores.

A potential deal went up in smoke on the final day of the session, prompting both critics and supporters of Amendment 2 to demand a special session to address the issue. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, has said he supports a special session on pot, as do Senate leaders, including Sen. Bill Galvano, who will take over as president late next year, and Negron.

The House and Senate are discussing “other ancillary issues” apart from the numbers of licenses and dispensaries, the Senate president said Thursday.

“But if we can reach a consensus on the regulatory framework for implementation of Amendment 2, I think the other issues will fall into place,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.

It’s unclear whether Scott’s line-item vetoes will require lawmakers to return to deal with the budget.

But Negron said lawmakers have “an obligation to implement medical marijuana” regardless of how the budget fares.

“Obviously, if a special session became necessary on the budget and medical marijuana, it would make sense to hold them simultaneously, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said.