John Morgan

#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.

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.

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.

 

 

Scott drops $3.2 million on TV this week in “dogfight” against Nelson

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan told us this morning that incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson “is in for a dogfight” against Rick Scott, the Republican outgoing governor who’s trying to oust the veteran senator.

Judging by the amount of money Scott’s campaign dropped on TV ads this week alone, Morgan’s characterization of the race may be an understatement.

According to Scott’s camp, they dropped $3.2 million on TV spots this week alone — including on two Spanish-language ads as the governor relentlessly woos Hispanic voters.

That brings to $8 million the total Scott’s campaign has spent on television in a little more than a month since he announced his entry into the race.

The latest ad, “Cambiar,” focuses on Scott’s pledge to “change” Washington.

We did notice that the two Spanish-language ads feature some of the same stars, but no matter.

A second ad, “Presente,” tambien en español, highlights Scott’s efforts to aid Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The third ad relies on an English-speaking cast of characters who blast Nelson for, well, being too much of a Democrat and “voting the party line.”

Which is a bit odd, since — until this year, when he supported a school-safety measure that included some gun restrictions — Scott had never been viewed as a politician who was known for bridging the partisan divide.

 

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.

What keeps John Morgan (who’s not Mother Theresa) up at night?

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It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan — who bankrolled the medical marijuana constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in November — admits he’s no saint.

“I am not Mother Theresa. I’m not Pope Francis. I’m John Morgan … I describe myself as a compassionate capitalist,” Morgan told reporters gathered outside the Leon County Courthouse Thursday morning.

Morgan’s confession came in response to a question about criticism that, since getting the marijuana initiative into the state constitution, he’s expressed interest in getting in on the state’s green rush.

Morgan — in the Capitol city Thursday to hold a press conference after filing a lawsuit challenging a new law that bans patients from smoking marijuana — has boatloads of business interests, including theme parks and hotels, throughout the country.

“I wake up every day, and my 100 percent effort is to make money, and lots of it. And I’m never going to apologize for it,” he said. “If people want to criticize me for making money, we’ll they’re going to able to criticize me until the day I die.”

While Morgan’s money-making tendencies are to be expected, what troubles the Orlando lawyer — whose visage is plastered all over buses and bill boards throughout Florida — might not be.

When asked about an effort by President Donald Trump’s administration to collect voter information data from states, Morgan — who is mulling a run for governor — seemed unaware of the issue.

“It’s a ping-pong ball for me with this administration. I spend most of my time worried about North Korea, to tell you the truth. What keeps me up at night is that crazy little dude in North Korea playing Russian roulette with us. I’m not that interested (in the voting issue),” Morgan said.

Morgan said he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll run for governor next year, but, as he has in the past, said he isn’t likely to show his cards for a while.

“Some days hot, some days cold,” he said, when asked where he stands on a gubernatorial run. “I’m going to think about it … Remember when you wanted to ask somebody out on a date? You kind of knew whether they were going to say yes or no before you asked them out. So, if I feel that way, maybe I will. I see no advantage to me announcing today, or anytime close to today. All of the people that have announced are doing things I would hate to be doing, having coffee klatsches and bullshitting people and telling everybody what they want to hear, no matter what their position is, in the klatsch, and raising money. I have an advantage, which I have name ID, for better or for worse … So I don’t have the need to do it.”

Morgan, a Democrat, likened his situation in what could be a crowded gubernatorial field to his position as a racehorse owner.

“I’m going to have the advantage of letting the race take off, come all the way around, and I don’t have to make a decision until the horses are all coming down the stretch. Wouldn’t you love to bet that way? You could make a lot of money. … So that’s how I’m looking at all of this,” he said.

Morgan also said he’s gearing up for a 2020 ballot initiative to raise Florida’s minimum wage, but he hasn’t settled yet on what the amount should be.

The proposal is now being drafted, Morgan said Thursday.

“The one thing that I know for a fact is, whether you’re a Bernie Sanders voter or a Donald Trump voter, what people were really mad about was that they get up every day, they do all the right things. They work their asses off. And when they come home, they’re worse off than when they left the door,” Morgan said.

“What’s going on in America, really, is we have slave labor — some people tell me, don’t use that word — in terms of undocumented workers. Thirteen to 14 million people are really living in slave labor. They are paid under the table. They have to buy food from the canteen. Sometimes they owe more to the agriculture people than they made all week. Then we come back to sub-slave labor, where people are working for $7 or $8 an hour, paying taxes, and there’s nothing left over. … So my response to this is rising tides lift all boats,” he said.

Morgan joked (we think) that he could use his chops getting the medical marijuana initiative passed to launch a cottage industry.

“I learned a lot of lessons in this process. I may spend the rest of my life doing ballot initiatives. Just, every two years, pick off somebody else’s problem,” he said.