Orlando

Buckle up: ‘Historic’ holiday ahead

imagesWe’ll probably stay home to avoid the crush, but that’s not what more than 2 million other Floridians will likely do.

That’s how many Sunshine Staters are expected to hit the road for the looooong 4th of July weekend — which apparently kicks off today and runs through Tuesday — according to AAA.

The auto club is predicting that more than 2.3 million Floridians will travel this weekend, and nearly all of them will be getting behind the wheel before (we hope) getting their party on.

Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group, predicted “historic” travel numbers throughout the country, and in Florida, over the next few days:

“Travel bookings at The Auto Club Group are up more than 15 percent in Florida, compared to this time last year. The biggest factors driving growth are low gas prices, strong employment, rising incomes, and higher consumer confidence; but overall Americans just love to travel, and want to do something fun for this mid-summer tradition.”

According to AAA, Orlando is the top destination for travelers this summer.

GOP Florida House members are giving the Orlando numbers a boost: Freshmen Republicans will huddle there today to decide who will take over as speaker in 2022. State Reps. Paul Renner of Jacksonville and Jamie Grant of Tampa are purportedly in the lead in the four-person race. Erin Grall of Naples and Vero Beach’s Byron Donalds are also duking it out for the chamber’s top spot.

Maybe they’ll want to get a lift from Uber, which finally sealed a deal with the ORL airport regarding rates.

A new law establishing statewide regulations for app-based rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft goes into effect tomorrow, prompting a blast email from Uber’s Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani who had this to say:

“Whether you’re headed to Key West for the weekend or you need to get from Tampa to Palm Beach, we’ve got you covered. Now you can count on us for a safe, reliable ride anywhere in the state, at any time. Drivers, will also be able to accept trips and earn anywhere in the state, thanks to your support.

This is just the beginning. We’re committed to the state of Florida and its riders and driver-partners, and want to prove it in a real way. Stay tuned for exciting announcements!”

On airport marijuana ban, thoughts on traveling with insulin

IMG_2721Patients won’t be able to bring their pot treatment with them when traveling through the Orlando International Airport.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Board approved the marijuana ban yesterday.

Click here to watch WFTV‘s report on the ban.

This got me thinking about the problems I encountered traveling in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Airport authorities were extremely nervous about liquids, even in small amounts.

I’ve been an insulin-dependent, Type I diabetic for more than … well, for a long time.

Type-I diabetic, for those who don’t know, means I need insulin to stay alive.

But that didn’t matter to some of the airport folks.

I once was prohibited from traveling with my insulin (which comes in vials or pens clearly marked as medicine).

I scrapped my trip, rather than risk going without my life-saving meds.

After that, I traveled with a notarized letter from my doctor attesting to the fact that these medications were critical.

One of the problems, I learned over the years, was that airport authorities in and out of the state treated my insulin in disparate ways.

Sometimes, they ignored it.

Other times, I was subjected to a super-duper special search after the slim needle on a syringe or insulin pen caught the attention of a security tech, who feared the metal object on her X-ray screen indicated the presence of a bomb. (I’ll save the story about the time my daughter’s teddy bear — with a music box — resulted in an airport bomb squad and dog-sniffing search for another day.)

And on a few occasions, I was forced to explain my medical condition and my treatment while a long line of stocking-footed, impatient travelers piled up behind me.

According to yesterday’s report by the television station, Orlando airport law enforcement officials say they’re not going to go out of their way to sniff out pot travelers.

Further complicating the issue, while Florida law bars patients from smoking “whole flower” — dudes, we call it “bud” — the sale of whole flower for use in vaporizers isn’t prohibited.

After reporting on MMJ for years, I know that marijuana is viewed, like insulin, as a life-saving treatment for some patients. I was inches away from a man who had an epileptic seizure while he awaited his turn to testify before a Senate committee earlier this year. His wife pleaded with attendees for marijuana-based CBD oil, while awaiting emergency personnel. The man, Michael Bowen, serves on the board of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

But, unlike the medicine I’ve been taking for oh-so-long, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, posing a legitimate problem for law enforcement officials at airports and, most certainly, other transportation hubs.

Traveling with insulin within the U.S. has become a lot less problematic for me in the past few years. I don’t even have a letter from my doctor anymore, but an escalation in international terrorist attacks has prompted me to ask her for an updated authorization.

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who’s been instrumental in passing the state’s medical marijuana legislation, calls the era in which dozens of states, including Florida, have legalized MMJ “a brand new world.” (Is he aware of the Aldous Huxley reference to hallucinogens?)

Traveling with treatment is just one part of that brave new world, for patients, law enforcement, and elected officials contemplating new policies.

Rick Scott after shootings: Orlando “challenged like never before”

The news is still developing but Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings’s office confirmed “multiple fatalities” after shootings in Orlando this morning.

Gov. Rick Scott, in Panama City for a ceremonial bill signing, issued a statement expressing empathy for the city, still reeling from last year’s massacre at the Pulse nightclub that left 49 people dead.

Scott’s statement:

“Over the past year, the Orlando community has been challenged like never before. I have been briefed by our law enforcement officials on this tragic incident and Ann and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I ask all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I will remain in contact with the Orlando law enforcement community throughout the day as more information is made available.”