medical marijuana

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.

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.


Does pot stalemate give Morgan better reason to run?

IMG_0610The Republican-dominated Legislature may be inadvertently goading Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, the moneybags behind a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana,  into finalizing a decision about whether to run for governor next year.

Lawmakers are left with a black eye after bombing out on a deal to implement Amendment 2, overwhelmingly approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November.

The stalemate prompted Senate President Joe Negron to issue a memo to his members Thursday, seeking their input on reaching a compromise with the House, amid growing demands for a special session on the issue.

The key point separating House and Senate was the number of retail locations — disparagingly referred to as “pot shops” by many Republican legislators — licensed marijuana operators — disparagingly referred to as a “cartel” — should be able to run.

The Senate wanted a cap of up to 15 dispensaries for the operators, while the House established a cap of 100, but would have agreed to a limit of 50.

The two approaches caused a very-public rift between Morgan and Ben Pollara, his onetime right-hand man who, as campaign manager for United for Care, was instrumental in racking up a win for the amendment last fall.

Pollara favored the Senate caps, while Morgan said the caps would limit patient access.

Gov. Rick Scott stayed on the sidelines during the legislative stand-off, adopting, in the words of one legislative leader, the role of “absentee landlord.”

On Thursday, Morgan — referring to himself in the third person — weighed in on how he would have handled the situation, if he were in the governor’s mansion.

“I believe John Morgan compromising with Joe Negron and Richard Corcoran would be more effective than any form of government we have going on right now,” Morgan told The News Service in a wide-ranging interview.

Morgan — who said he would be “better suited than anybody I can think of for that role” — stepped in at the 11th hour before the session ended Friday to try to broker a deal, but was unable to establish a rapprochement between the two sides.

“So yeah, in one sense it makes me think, if I had been Rick Scott, I would have come out of my tree house and walked across the street,” Morgan said. “I believe that a governor has to govern. And you cannot govern in an Eiffel tower…You have to go out and meet the people…and then negotiate and cajole and compromise.”

Republicans have had control of the governor’s office and both the House and Senate “since Crist was a baby,” Morgan, a devout Catholic, said.

“Maybe it’s time that we saw what would divided government look like in Florida,” he said.

On the possibility of a special session, Morgan — who considers Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican lawyer, a close friend — is urging lawmakers to return to the Capitol and finalize a deal on pot.

“I want them to come back. I believe it’s better to be regulated legislatively than to rely on bureaucrats,” he said.

If lawmakers don’t set out the framework for implementation of Amendment 2, the responsibility will rest with the Department of Health, which took a lot of heat for its roll-out of the state’s first medical marijuana laws in 2014.

“The reason American and Florida has disdain for bureaucrats…You know how inept they are,” Morgan said.

___ Posted by Dara Kam








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Senate Health Policy Committee chairwoman looking for “sweet spot” with pot bills

Senate Health Policy Committee Chairwoman Dana Young will hold a workshop to try to reach consensus on how to implement a constitutional amendment, overwhelmingly approved by voters last fall, that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients.

Young, R-Tampa, told The News Service of Florida Wednesday she intends to hold the workshop during the third week of the legislative session, which kicked off yesterday.

Young said she’s hoping to find the “sweet spot” between patient access and appropriate regulation to use as the basis for the ultimate proposal.

Five separate marijuana measures now are floating in the Senate, including one co-sponsored by Young, and the House released its version of the implementation bill on the opening day of session.

All of the proposals would allow the state’s current pot growers to continue to provide marijuana for the vastly expanded market of patients under the new addition to the constitution.

But the measures also incorporate vastly different approaches, ranging from the number of additional licenses to where dispensaries can be located.

“We will workshop all of the bills that have been filed in the Senate and we will take input from members, try to answer questions and get as much information out to the committee members and to the public on each of the bills,” Young said. “I would anticipate we would put together a committee bill — I don’t have any idea what that would look like —  and probably bring it up the following week.”

Young’s no stranger to controversial and complicated issues; she sponsored a major gambling overhaul a few years ago, but that proposal ultimately failed to pass.

In contrast, lawmakers are intent on passing a measure to implement the constitutional amendment, which nearly 72 percent of voters supported in November.

“It’s sort of like gaming in a different costume,” Young said Wednesday. “But all kidding aside, this is very important. If we don’t do this right and implement this right, our constituents are going to be very angry. And I feel an obligation to do it right, even if I may not love everything, personally, in the bill. We have got to make sure, above all else, that patients have access, wide access. We need to make sure that patients that can appropriately benefit from this medication, that they can get it in an appropriately regulated market. That is the sweet spot. I’ve got to find the sweet spot between patient access and appropriate regulation.”

_ Posted by Dara Kam