Rick Scott

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.

 

 

“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.

 

 

 

Scott on “ridiculous” government shutdown: I’m going to work hard!

img_1400Orlando’s Spectrum News13 caught up with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott during his first days in the nation’s capitol.

Scott, a Republican who ousted long-serving Democrat Bill Nelson, joined the Senate in the midst of a government shutdown that’s deepened an already seismic partisan divide.

The former Florida governor called the shutdown, which has affected roughly 800,000 federal workers and contractors, “ridiculous.”

“We shouldn’t be shutting down government. … We’ve got to figure out how to bring people together,” said Scott, words that might not reflect the thoughts of his close pal, President Donald Trump.

As he did while he was governor, the uber-wealthy Scott said he’ll forgo the $174,000 government salary.

“I’m going to work hard. I’m going to work on building relationships and I’m going to take the time to learn the issues and how to get things done,” Scott said.

Watch the video here.

 

 

Senate exploring process for ousted Broward supervisor Snipes

fullsizeoutput_1861Senate President Bill Galvano said Tuesday he’s working with his staff to address the issue of former Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes, ousted from her office by Gov. Rick Scott after she submitted her resignation from the post.

The embattled Snipes, appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 and re-elected four times, told Scott she was walking away from the job, effective Jan. 4, amid repeated calls for her to step down or be stripped from office following a number of problems in the November election.

But after Scott booted her from office Friday night, Snipes rescinded her resignation, accusing the Republican governor — and U.S. senator-elect — of attempting to embarrass her and “tarnish her record.”

Scott replaced Snipes with long-time ally Pete Antonacci, whose badge awaited him at the winter meeting of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections but who was a no-show.

If Snipes chooses to follow through with her fight against her removal from office, the Florida Senate will have the final say in whether she should keep her position.

After he appeared briefly at the supervisors’ conference in Sarasota Tuesday morning, reporters asked Galvano about Snipes.

“I’m working with my staff on that issue and I’m not going to comment further,” the Bradenton Republican said.

Someone “reached out on her behalf” to his staff “to understand what the process is,” Galvano said.

Senators “are the ones who ultimately remove, or maintain her current position” after a trial, Galvano explained when asked to explain the Senate’s role.

“We are looking at the process right now, and what the options are and what’s required of us and what the timing of all of that is, so it will be sooner rather than later,” he said, when asked how long it would be until the Senate weighs in on the matter.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee would be the first panel to take up the issue, he said.

Trump ‘trash talking’ Gillum as a ‘thief’

As Sunshine State voters line up to cast ballots at early voting sites or hunch over mail-in ballots at home, President Donald Trump flexed his multi-million-follower Twitter muscle today in Florida’s closely watched governor’s race.

Trump’s already thrown his support behind DeSantis, who quit Congress to focus on his bid to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

Today’s presidential tweet — which went out to his 55.4 million followers and was retweeted to who-only-knows how many more — is the latest installment of the GOP’s “crime & corruption” meme targeting DeSantis’s opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Gillum quickly fired back with a tweet of his own, repeating a mantra where he’s chided the president for failing to use the mayor’s @AndrewGillum handle (to make it easier for his  407,000 followers to be in the know about the presidential attacks).

DeSantis and his supporters, including Trump, are making hay of the drip-drip-drip of documents being released by Christopher Kise, a Republican lawyer who represents Tally lobbyist Adam Corey. Corey appears to be at the heart of a years-long corruption probe by the FBI into Tallahassee city government. The documents, released in batches by Kise, are in response to an ethics complaint lodged against Gillum. The records show that Gillum accepted a ticket from “Mike Miller,” a faux developer who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, to the Broadway hit “Hamilton” two years ago.

Miller also dropped nearly $5,000 on a fundraiser for a committee linked to Gillum, prior to the mayor officially joining the governor’s race. The committee never reported the contribution.

Despite being branded a “thief” by the president, Gillum has repeatedly denied that he’s done anything wrong, and he maintains he’s not the subject of the FBI inquiry.

As for the Sunshine State capital’s rep as “one of the most corrupt cities in the Country,” we’re not sure what metric arrived at that conclusion.

But, in a state where the last governor’s races were determined by fewer than 100,000 votes, Trump’s social media reach might make a difference.

And if his virtual self doesn’t sway voters, perhaps his actual self will.

The part-time Florida man is stumping in two Florida GOP strongholds this week, to boost support for Scott — who’s trying to boot U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson out of his long-held seat — and DeSantis.

Trump’s coming to Fort Myers Wednesday, and he’ll be in Pensacola on Saturday.

Not-so-sexy beaches, a la Billy Corben

WARNING — It’s difficult to watch, but Miami filmmaker Billy Corben‘s tongue-in-cheek video playing off a somewhat less controversial Pitbull “Sexy Beaches” spot for Visit Florida is a must-see.

Corben’s clip stars the green slime that’s inundated Florida waterways and the dead fish, manatees and other creatures killed off by the effects of red tide creeping along both coastlines.

Visit Florida drew heat for a controversial contract inked with Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull. The secrecy involving the $1 million contract with Pitbull cost the head of the public-private tourism agency his job late in 2016. Pitbull revealed the terms of the contract on Twitter, showing Visit Florida had paid him $1 million to pimp the state on social media, at concerts and on a “Sexy Beaches” video.

Florida Dems pimped Corben’s video, pointing the finger at Gov. Rick Scott (as does the film pastiche) for the toxic water situation that’s making people sick, closing Florida beaches and shuttering shore-front businesses. As widespread as they are, the red tide and toxic algae outbreaks could be problematic for Scott, a Republican trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the race for the U.S. Senate.

For a flashback to what the state’s #SexyBeaches once looked like, check out Pitbull’s video.

Throwback Wednesday: Connie Mack IV, Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign trope about the length of time his opponent, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, has spent in office, with ads featuring such things as broken-down Pintos to illustrate what was going on when Nelson was first elected to the Senate nearly two decades ago.

But Scott’s camp had its throwback moment of sorts this week, with the release of a spot that accuses Nelson of having “voted to cut $716 billion from Medicare.”

It’s an abbreviated version of a charge hurled by former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV in his losing race against Nelson six years ago.

But it isn’t true, according to Politifact, which repeatedly debunked the accusation made by Mack and other Republicans following the passage of President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

Four times during a debate in 2012, Mack accused Nelson of voting to cut $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

Here’s an excerpt from Politifact’s ruling, back in the day:

Medicare spending increases under Obamacare, but over 10 years, it rises more slowly that it would without the law. The money comes from reducing payments to insurance companies and hospitals.

Part of the savings go to reduce prescription drug payments for Medicare recipients, as well as to provide free preventive care.

Overall, the lower spending extends the solvency of Medicare by eight years.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

“It’s absurd to be leveling a charge that was used by Connie Mack IV to attack Bill Nelson six years ago,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said Wednesday evening, pointing out that the allegation about voting to take money from Medicare was “repeatedly debunked” by Politifact.

The ad, entitled “Responsibility,” punches Nelson for a recent anti-Scott spot, launched by Majority Forward, that hits on Scott’s role in the Medicare fraud involving Columbia/HCA. The hospital company was fined $1.7 billion for Medicaid fraud, after Scott stepped down as CEO of the chain. Here’s Politifact breaking down the Scott/HCA allegations.

 

And here’s the ad, released by Majority Forward Tuesday,  that prompted the rebuttal: