medical marijuana

Legal eagle Lombard splits with Vezina, joins Radey

Big news for administrative law geeks in and around the capitol city: Ed Lombard has said bye-bye to his old firm, Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli, and joined forces with APA powerhouse Radey.

eduardo-lombard-2019-190x250The move by Lombard, who worked at VLP for more than a decade, now links him with Donna Blanton, a onetime journo who’s known throughout state government as one of the city’s top lawyers when it comes to all things DOAH.

Even those who aren’t DOAH dweebs might be familiar with Lombard: He represented the state Department of Health in numerous administrative challenges related to medical marijuana licenses and rules.

In a recent chat, Blanton gushed about Lombard, calling him “a rock star.”

“I am so happy he joined our firm. I’ve litigated with him and against him probably for ten years or more, on the same side and on the opposite side,” Blanton told us. “He’s one of the best administrative litigators in Tallahassee, if not the best. We are extremely fortunate to have him join us. He’s just really, really good.”

For his part, Lombard said he’s “extremely happy” to join Radey.

“This group has a very strong regulatory and governmental practice, and that matches very well with my emphasis on governmental and administrative litigation and procurements, too. So I think adding my experience here will help us as a group to continue focusing on trying to be a premiere Tallahassee firm for regulated industries,” he said.

Lombard earned a rep as a bulldog during his many clashes with lawyers representing would-be marijuana operators at the Division of Administrative Hearings skirmishes.

And it looks as though the health department will be traveling with Lombard to his new digs.

According to the Transparency Florida website, the state signed three contracts with Radey on Jan. 9, hiring the firm to represent the health department in two MMJ-related matters and a non-pot bid dispute over office rental space.

One contract — for $200,000 — is for legal representation in regard to OMMU. A $100,000 contract with Radey is for representation regarding seed to sale.

Another $100,000 contract is for a bid dispute with Tallahassee Corporate Center, LLC.

Blanton, meanwhile, has dropped her MMJ clients. On January 11, regulatory law superstar John Lockwood — who’s hired onetime Florida pot czar Christian Bax — filed a motion to take Blanton’s place representing Nature’s Way Nursery of Miami, Inc., at the 1st District Court of Appeal.

What will come of the current medical marijuana litigation — and there are more than a dozen lawsuits hanging out there — remains a mystery.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has done a U-turn when it comes to pot policy. He’s told the Legislature to drop the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, and he bashed the vertical integration system that requires pot purveyors to grow, process and sell marijuana products. The new governor also indicated he wants more MMJ licenses.

Appearing with #PotDaddy John Morgan and Congressman Matt Gaetz last week (let’s ask him if he wants to be called #PotDaddy2), DeSantis said he doesn’t believe the Republican-dominated Legislature properly implemented the constitutional amendment, largely bankrolled by Orlando trial lawyer Morgan, that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

“Look, we’ve got a lot of fish to fry in Florida. The last thing I want to be doing is cleaning up for something that should have happened two years ago. This thing should have been implemented. We should have moved on. I don’t want to continue fighting some of these old battles,” DeSantis said.

Pot czar Bax teams up with Lockwood

img_0117.jpgIt’s probably one of the worst-kept secrets in certain capital circles, but all the chatter about Gov. Ron DeSantis and medical marijuana provided a good time to dish about Christian Bax, Florida’s former pot czar.

Bax, who stepped down as director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use late last year, has joined forces with regulatory lawyer extraordinaire John Lockwood.

Lockwood, who’s bested the state in a number of gambling-related legal victories, has emerged as one of Florida’s top cannabis lawyers.

“This industry is rapidly expanding and evolving and it makes perfect sense for us to have somebody with the significant experience Christian provides,” Lockwood said in an interview this morning.john-m-lockwood-team

Bax is “of counsel” to Lockwood’s law firm and also has his own  firm, which Bax said “is a full-service management and regulatory consulting” shop.

Bax said most of his firm’s clients are from outside Florida, and he doens’t represent anyone whose application he scored during his tenure at OMMU.

After he left state government, Bax said he “looked at a lot of different opportunities” before settling on the Lockwood Law Firm.

“It’s a really good firm and John himself, he’s a great lawyer. He’s very understated and he’s brilliant. So there was a very strong appeal of getting to work with him, especially because the law firm deals with some of the more cutting edge issues in cannabis,” Bax told Truth or Dara in a phone interview. “Getting to help John do that work has been very fulfilling and very interesting.”

But what does Nikki Fried think?

purple budFive former probation commissioners from New York City say marijuana testing for individuals on probation and parole has “little public purpose” and should be ixnayed, even in states where pot’s not legal, according to The Crime Report.

From the Crime Report story:

The five former commissioners—Martin F. Horn, Michael Jacobson, James Payne, Raul Russi and Vincent N. Schiraldi—said research showed that revocations of parole as a result of failed marijuana tests were a major driver of high incarceration rates and disproportionately affected African-American and Hispanic individuals.

“What we want is that people under supervision lead law-abiding lives and meet their obligations as citizens,” the ex-commissioners said in a written statement presented to the New York State Assembly’s Standing Committees on Codes, Health, Governmental Operations, and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Of course, recreational pot remains illegal in Florida, but voters two years ago signed off on a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana.

Greene on ganja: Are the kids alright?

IMG_0236Jeff Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire who this week joined a crowded slate of Democrats seeking to replace Gov. Rick Scott, shared his thoughts about marijuana with Truth or Dara during a lengthy interview that included some chit-chat about Willie Nelson and air pods.

(Spoiler alert: He’s a fan of both the musician and the technology).

On medical marijuana, Greene’s got the same take as his competitors, who’ve all come out in support of allowing patients to smoke their treatment.

But the father of three young boys is on the fence about flat-out legalization of recreational pot. Greene says he wants more data about what’s happened in other states that have legalized marijuana before he decides.

Saying he “always likes to learn from other people,” Greene wants to look at states such as Colorado, where recreational has been legal for more than a minute.

Greene’s biggest worry is his three young sons, who are now ages four, six and eight.

“They grow up so quickly. When I think of recreational marijuana being legal, I just imagine my son in four or five years,” said Greene.

Perhaps his 13-year-old son is visiting a friend and comes across “a pack of marijuana cigarettes” left around the house by a relative or friend, Greene posited.

“Is he going to say, hey, let’s try this,” Greene wondered.

“So the biggest worry I have is, again, as a father with young children, and someone whose candidacy is largely based on kids and getting kids great educations and having equality of opportunity for all Floridians, and as someone who’s focused on kids.

My view would be, let’s look at the states that have legalized recreational marijuana and let’s understand if there’s been an increase in consumption among young people. If there has, I have to say I definitely want to decriminalize it but I would not legalize it so fast,” he said.

But if the kids are OK, Greene said the state should go for it.

“If there has been no uptick in use whatsoever among young people, I’d say absolutely legalize it, regulate it. That way people who are using it know what they’re getting. Tax it, get some revenue, use the revenue from that to attack the real drug problem, which is the opioid crisis, which is epidemic in our state, in our country,” he said. “It’s something I want to look at very intelligently, just like in education. I look at the states that have done a great job, like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and think, what can we learn from them here in Florida to make our education top five in the country?”

When Truth or Dara asked Greene where he stands on the marijuana issue (both smokable and recreational) he prefaced his response with: “This is my position. It didn’t come from any poll or research. It’s just how I feel.”

Greene, 63, said that medical marijuana has “proven to be an enormous help” to sick people.

“These are people who have cancer, who are really struggling. If it helps relieve their pain, how can we possible not let them get it, in any way they want to ingest it,” he said.

People have been smoking marijuana “for generations now,” Greene said, adding that he doesn’t believe that allowing patients to smoke pot will result in more pot being available for people to use recreationally.

Smoke is an issue, of course, because of a legal tangle over a state law prohibiting smokable medical marijuana. Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the ban runs afoul of the constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida, but Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is appealing the decision.

“On medical, I say make it available. If they want to smoke it, if they want to swallow it, whatever they want to do, but, if it helps them, please Rick Scott, please Republicans, stop hurting these people. These are people who are very sick often, and it’s just horrible that they’re restricting their ability to get pain relief,” he said.

 

 

John Morgan: “If I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried”

IMG_0124Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan held court with reporters moments before a hearing in a lawsuit he initiated kicked off Wednesday morning.

Morgan is a political rainmaker who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida and was overwhelmingly approved by voters nearly two years ago.

Morgan, who had toyed with the notion of running for governor, spoke about his decision to stay out of the governor’s race.

“I’ll tell you. To run for governor, you’ve got to be done making money. And I’m not done making money. Or you have to be a professional politician. And I’m not a professional politician,” he said.

Morgan said he spoke yesterday with Philip Levine, the former Miami Beach Miami who is a contender in the Democratic primary for governor.

“I told him he’s lucky I’m not in ‘cause I would win in a landslide,” Morgan said, adding that he didn’t know which Democrat would capture the nomination.

“All I know is I’ve never known any governor that’s ever done anything for any of us. Ever. So it’s not a job that I really think I’d be good at every day. I’m better at this,” he said, standing outside the courtroom.

Morgan also said he supported House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s decision to stay on the sidelines in the governor’s race.

Morgan said Corcoran visited him a few weeks ago.

“I said, look, here’s the deal. It’s all about money. And if you don’t got the money, you can’t run. I said at the end of the day, questions answer themselves. And I think the question was answered for Richard Corcoran when the money froze up,” Morgan said.

While Corcoran is a friend and someone he would have helped, Morgan said the Land O’ Lakes Republican made the right choice.

“I think he made the right decision because I think he would have gotten beat and I think he knew he was going to get beat. And if I’m going to get beat, I don’t like to go to my own ass-kicking,” Morgan said.

Morgan also had what appeared to be a dim view of incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s odds against challenger Rick Scott, who’s finishing his last year as governor.

“I think Sen Nelson is in for a dog fight. I think he’s got to get busy. You cannot underestimate this Rick Scott. He is a methodical, Eveready bunny, a bald-headed Eveready bunny who just never stops. He’s focused, and he’s got the money, and he’s got the message, and if I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried,” he said.

 

Marijuana patient database hits 100,000 mark on 4/20 day. Coincidence?

purple bud.JPGAccording to Sigmund Freud, accidents don’t exist.

So how to explain the state’s medical marijuana patient database hitting the magical 100,000 mark on 4/20, better known as “weed day” among acolytes of the Grateful Dead, Phish and whoever else pot aficionados are listening to these days. (We could give you the soundtrack to our cloudy college days, but we’ll spare you.)

Whether it’s a coincidence or not, Florida patients may have as much to mourn as to celebrate.

The state’s pot czar, Christian Bax, and his troupe have yet to finalize rules regulating the state’s rapidly growing pot industry.

But, worse yet, major marijuana-related lawsuits — including one initiated by Amendment 2 big daddy John Morgan — have a long way to go before they’re settled.

Morgan’s suit, which features marijuana patient-icon Cathy Jordan as a plaintiff, challenges a state law passed last year that bans patients like Jordan from smoking cannabis. Vaping makes Jordan, who has ALS, gag, and her doctors have recommended smoking as the best route of administration.

Meanwhile, Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner — who revolutionized the “gentleman’s club” industry in Florida — won a victory from Tallahassee Judge Karen Gievers, who gave the 77-year-old lung cancer survivor permission to grow his own weed for juicing purposes.

Redner’s doc says that eight ounces of whole plant juice daily — which would take about three pounds of raw plant material, or about 40 plants in varying stages of growth — is the best way for his patient to keep his cancer in remission.

The state quickly appealed Gievers’s decision, and it’s unknown whether the appellate court will let him move forward while the case is under appeal.

The legal challenges are only a few of the issues facing the pot industry. Medical marijuana purveyors are having a hard time finding retail locales to ply their wares, and some in the industry are complaining there aren’t enough doctors to handling a quickly growing patient base.

But, hey, it’s 4/20 day, so, sit back, crank up whatever, and chill.

Purses and pot in Jax

budJacksonville shoppers with pot issues can pop into a new law office after browsing the racks at Steinmart.
Denver-based Vicente Sederberg LLC, which bills itself as “one of the nation’s leading marijuana law firms,” is opening a office in the Riverside shopping center, according to a press release issued Thursday.
The expansion of Vicente Sederberg — which, according to the release, “guided” one of the state’s five original medical marijuana licensees — in Florida marks a growing pot-focused legal community in what some experts predict will be one of the nation’s largest markets.
From the press release:
“The marijuana policy and business landscapes are evolving quickly in the U.S. and especially in Florida,” said founding partner Brian Vicente. “The expansion of the state’s tightly regulated medical cannabis program is not only fueling demand and supply, but also innovation. Vicente Sederberg has been at the forefront of these developing markets for nearly a decade, advising businesses, guiding policymakers, and building a viable and responsible industry.

“Our new Jacksonville office will allow us to expand our service offerings to our existing Florida clients and develop relationships with the many entrepreneurs and investors seeking opportunities in the state’s burgeoning medical cannabis and hemp industries.”

The Jacksonville office will be headed by Sally Kent Peebles, according to the release.
The opening of the Jax branch comes amid myriad marijuana-related lawsuits, and the announcement followed Tallahassee Judge Karen Gievers’ decision yesterday to allow Joe Redner to grow his own pot so he can juice it to prevent his lung cancer from recurring.
Put this on your calendar: The law firm is sponsoring the “National Cannabis Industry Association’s Quarterly Cannabis Caucus” in Tampa on Tuesday, and will also participate in North East Florida NORML’s 420 on the Beach event in Jacksonville Beach on April 20.