‘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.

Bigger, better, stronger? Panama City officials plead for aid

Months after Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida Panhandle, Panama City officials are calling out both state lawmakers and Congress to adequately fund disaster relief.

The appeal comes in a two-and-a-half-minute video that highlights successful recovery efforts while expressing the agonizing wait for assistance that has stretched to 200 days.

The storm that crippled Bay County left behind 31million cubic yards of debris, or 12 million truckloads, created a housing crisis and displaced thousands of students, Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki explains as he takes viewers on a tour of his community.

“We know that we need help from Tallahassee and Washington,” Brudnicki says as he wraps up the video. “With your help we can rebuild Panama City bigger, better and stronger. Thank you.”

Brudnicki and City Manager Mark McQueen are off Monday to D.C. for several days of meetings with members of Congress and various federal agencies.

By Jim Turner.

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.


Mass. Gaming Commish report: Wynn Resorts execs covered up sexual allegations against Steve Wynn

Former Wynn Resorts executives knew about allegations of rape and other sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn, but did nothing to address the wrongdoing and, in some cases, actively worked to cover them up, according to a report released by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Tuesday.

The company is trying to convince gambling regulators that it has undergone a “transformation” since Steve Wynn left the company last year while embroiled in accusations of sexual misconduct.

The investigation by the commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau found “that in some instances particular Company executives, with the assistance of outside counsel, were part of affirmative efforts to conceal allegations against Mr. Wynn that came to their attention.”

The report also details allegations by a Las Vegas Wynn manicurist that she became pregnant after Wynn raped her.

That allegation was passed to Marc Schorr, then the Wynn Las Vegas president and CEO and COO of Wynn Resorts, who informed Steve Wynn. There was no internal investigation and a settlement of $7.5 million between Steve Wynn and the manicurist was “structured for utmost secrecy,” the IEB wrote.

There was also a $975,000 payoff in 2006 to a former Wynn Resorts cocktail server, who told the company’s HR chief that she had “wrongfully engaged in a sexual relationship” with Wynn. Two years later, another cocktail server who had been fired was paid $700,000.

Here’s more from State House News Service’s Colin A. Young:

“The Company does not contest the facts contained in the IEB’s report,” Wynn Resorts said in a statement Tuesday morning. The company added, “Any employee who was aware of allegations of sexual assault against the Company’s founder and did not investigate or report is no longer with the Company.”

The report largely mirrored the findings of a similar inquiry led by gaming regulators in Nevada — which led to a record $20 million fine but an agreement that regulators will not take action against the company’s casino license in that state — though the Massachusetts report contains a greater level of detail.

“The IEB investigation shows that over a course of years, a limited group of executives and employees in positions of authority at the Company, including in the legal divisions, were aware of certain allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Wynn involving employees, but they disregarded Company policies when it came to handling those allegations,” the report’s executive summary says. “The investigation also shows that in some instances particular Company executives, with the assistance of outside counsel, were part of affirmative efforts to conceal allegations against Mr. Wynn that came to their attention.”

The IEB report details the allegations made by a Wynn Las Vegas manicurist who reported to her supervisor in 2005 that Steve Wynn had raped her and that she was pregnant by him. That allegation was passed to Marc Schorr, then the Wynn Las Vegas president and CEO and COO of Wynn Resorts, who informed Steve Wynn. There was no internal investigation and a settlement of $7.5 million between Steve Wynn and the manicurist was “structured for utmost secrecy,” the IEB wrote.

There was also a $975,000 settlement to resolve a 2006 allegation from a former Wynn Resorts cocktail server who told the company’s human resources chief that she had “wrongfully engaged in a sexual relationship” with Steve Wynn. There was no internal investigation of that allegation, the IEB said. In 2008, another cocktail server who had been fired sent a demand letter to a Wynn Resorts attorney in which she alleged an “intimate relationship” with Steve Wynn. There was no internal investigation and the parties agreed to a $700,000 settlement, the IEB said.

Steve Wynn has denied allegations of non-consensual relationships but in a statement initially given to a Wynn Resorts special committee investigating the allegations, he said he “had multiple consensual relationships during my tenure at Wynn Resorts and made no attempt to document them.” Steve Wynn did not agree to be interviewed by Gaming Commission investigators either under oath or on a more informal basis, the IEB said.

Matt Maddox, who replaced Steve Wynn as the gambling empire’s CEO last year, told the commission Tuesday that Wynn Resorts is a new company and detailed changes to its executive structure and board of directors, and updates made to company policies.

“Fourteen months ago when the Wall Street Journal article came out, our company was shaken to its core. We were in crisis, and many of us were in denial. … I knew when I took over on February 7, 2018, that we had to be strong, be fast and get to the truth. Only the truth was going to let this company survive and thrive. We had to be transparent, cooperative and progressive,” Maddox said. “We were going transform ourselves from a founder-led company that was about a man into a progressive company that’s about the 25,000 people. We weren’t just going to get to best practices – we were going to lead.”

Soon after the IEB report was released Tuesday morning, Wynn Resorts went live with a new website offering details on changes at the company in the last year.

The company’s board is entirely new and all the executives identified in a Nevada Gaming Board report as having had knowledge of Steve Wynn’s alleged acts have left the company, per Wynn Resorts. Everyone who was responsible for disclosing a settlement involving Steve Wynn and one of his alleged victims to the Mass. Gaming Commission is also gone, and only Maddox, now the company’s CEO, remains from the company’s original list of qualifiers.

Whether the five commissioners think that the steps Wynn Resorts has taken in the wake of the Wall Street Journal article that ignited the commission’s investigation are sufficient for the company to maintain its suitability is an open question.

“Remedial measures are certainly important, but they do not erase the past and as the Nevada Gaming Commission’s recent historic regulatory fine demonstrates, this is a very serious issue of corporate governance which requires careful consideration,” Wells told the commission Tuesday morning.

Wells also told the commissioners they will have to consider that in 2013 when the Gaming Commission deemed Wynn Resorts suitable, three of the people found individually suitable — Steve Wynn, his ex-wife Elaine Wynn who owns significant shares in the company and sat on its board and Wynn Resorts’ then-general counsel Kim Sinatra — were aware of the 2005 settlement but did not disclose it to regulators. Steve and Elaine Wynn were both also aware of the rape allegation behind the settlement but did not disclose it.

“The Commission will have to consider whether the Massachusetts gaming law and regulations mandated disclosure of the 2005 settlement and related sexual assault allegation or any other allegation of sexual misconduct or sexual conduct involving Mr. Wynn and a subordinate employee,” the IEB wrote in its report.

After opening statements from both sides Tuesday, the commission began considering the differences in how Wynn Resorts and its executives handled two complaints of inappropriate behavior at Encore Boston Harbor and the litany of allegations against Steve Wynn. The IEB called as its first witness Denise Murphy, a partner from the law firm Rubin Rudnick who specializes in employment law.

Murphy conducted for the IEB an independent review of the handling of two complaints of inappropriate behavior against an executive at Encore Boston Harbor, Wynn Resorts’ roughly $2.5 billion casino project in Everett. The resort is set to open in June if the commission determines Wynn Resorts is still a suitable operator.

The first Encore Boston Harbor complaint, from January 2017, involved an employee who reported that the executive “massaged her shoulders while he was looking over her while she was making plane reservations for him,” Murphy said. The second complaint, in July 2017, was based on an incident when “the executive and the individual went to Starbucks and got coffee. She tried to pay, the executive tried to override her and put his hand, from behind, over her mouth and put out his own credit card.”

Murphy said Krum and another Encore Boston Harbor official immediately launched investigations upon becoming aware of the complaints and worked to ensure that the employees who made the complaints were fully heard and were kept apprised of the company’s response to the complaints. After the second complaint, which was filed against the same executive by a different employee, Wynn Resorts fired the executive.

“I think the company did everything right, in the context of their limited resources in Boston,” she said when asked for her overall assessment of the handling of the complaints. Murphy added, “The company did, as far as I’m concerned, they did what they’re supposed to do.”

The IEB concluded that Murphy’s review “demonstrates that the two Encore Boston Harbor complaints received drastically different treatment compared to the allegations against the company CEO and Chairman.”

“There is a striking contrast between the manner in which the two Encore Boston Harbor complaints were treated on the one hand, compared to the manner in which the allegations against Mr. Wynn … were treated on the other hand,” the IEB wrote. “Clearly, the Company had policies in place and possessed the understanding and sophistication to appropriately deal with workplace sexual misconduct complaints.”

After about six hours, including an hourlong lunch break, the Gaming Commission recessed its hearing at 3:50 p.m. Tuesday to resume the proceedings at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Wednesday’s session is expected to begin with a presentation from Wynn Resorts, the company’s first chance to make a detailed and thorough response to the IEB’s findings and the issues raised during the first day of the hearing.

The new members of the company’s board of directors are expected to play a central role in that presentation, testifying as a panel on the changes to the board and management at Wynn Resorts. The company will also call upon an outside expert to “present her expert report and analysis of the Wynn Resorts Ltd. changes at the board level,” according to Jed Nosal, an attorney at Brown Rudnick who is representing Wynn Resorts.

“We look forward to sharing more information tomorrow about the transformation of the company’s governance, policies, training and culture,” the company said in a statement issued at the conclusion of the proceedings Tuesday.


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.”