By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana has found its natural audience in Florida -- senior citizens. A big majority of the Sunshine State's older residents say they will vote yes this November on the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 2. It would legalize the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in Florida.
Among those older than 65, a whopping 84 percent support the initiative, according to Quinnipiac University poll this spring, reports Florida Today. Support across all age groups is even higher, at 88 percent.
The same survey found that 62 percent of respondents ages 50 to 64 have admitted to smoking pot at one time, the largest of any demographic, according to Phil Ammann at SaintPetersblog.
To amend the state constitution, the measure needs at least 60 percent of the vote in November.
Floridians have come a long way in the past few years when it comes to knowledge about marijuana, according to Robert Platshorn, who hosts Meet the Experts medical marijuana seminars.
By Steve Elliott
It was bound to happen, and now it has: The first of a planned national chain of medical marijuana dispensaries has opened. The very first Kaya Shack opened Thursday morning in Portland, Oregon, and began sales to licensed medical marijuana cardholders.
The Kaya Shack dispensary opened at 10 a.m. in a 1,000-square-foot storefront near Southeast 17th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard. As required by Oregon law, the company has a state resident responsible for the dispensary.
The planned Kaya Shack chain is owned by the Florida-based Alternative Fuels Americas, Inc. (AFAI) majority owned subsidiary Marijuana Holdings Americas, Inc. Marijuana Holdings Americas is one of only a handful of out-of-state companies that have ventured into Oregon's medical marijuana market in the past 16 years, since voters approved medicinal cannabis at the polls in 1998.
"Our analysis showed that Oregon was the next state of any significance," CEO Craig Frank told the Portland Tribune's Kevin Harden in May. "So we focused on Oregon."
The opening places AFAI as the first publicly traded company in the United States to own a majority interest in a marijuana dispensary conducting legal sales of cannabis, according to the company.
"We are very excited to be opening the first Kaya Shack," said Frank. "We believe our brand is unique and inviting, and out staff is well trained to provide a friendly and knowledgeable consumer experience."
Florida's Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, is leading with a lop-sided margin in the polls. With change seemingly on the way, the Florida Medical Marijuana Institute's Regulatory Seminars are aimed at entrepreneurs and investors, doctors, lawyers and pharmacy owners across Florida, who seek insight into Florida's likely regulatory landscape.
"People ask us, 'How will your Regulatory Seminar address regulations that haven't yet been issued?'" said Jan Frel, director at the Florida MMTC Institute, a business education school offering a Regulatory Seminar on July 12 at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Downtown Miami. "There is an abundance of useful information to use as a guide for Florida's likely regulatory scenarios; the right mix of experts can provide invaluable business guidance."
Regulatory seminars will be offered every three weeks through November, according to the Institute.
The Institute draws its analysis from the Amendment 2 language on Florida's November ballot, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act approved by the Florida Legislature in May, regulatory approaches in other medical marijuana states, and current Florida statutes regulating related industries, such as the production and distribution of alcohol and pharmaceuticals.
By Steve Elliott
John Morgan, the man who has led the fight to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, has donated $4 million more of his own money to the campaign.
Morgan is pushing to pass Amendment 2, and he says it's for his dad, his brother, and others who may suffer from debilitating diseases, reports Kendra Conlon at WTSP.
"It's all frivolous until it happens to you," John's brother Tim Morgan said. Tim broke his back in 1977 in a lifeguarding accident; he's now quadriplegic, with excruciating pain that has only gotten worse over the decades.
"I had cancer in 2003 and a pacemaker put in two years ago," said Tim, who added that medical marijuana gets him through the day as director of Morgan and Morgan. "You just break out in a sweat for no reason; you smoke pot and it stops. Why? I don't know; I don't care. It works."
"With my dad, he was dying from emphysema," John Morgan said. "It gave him appetite on Day 1, and it took away his anxiety."
If Amendment 2 passes with 60 percent or more of the vote (as a constitutional amendment, it needs more than a simple majority), it would allow doctors to authorize patients to use medical marijuana, with the state regulating production and distribution.
"I have never met one person -- because there's none -- who has ever died from a marijuana overdose, ever," John said. "It's so simple and so easy, and that's why I think it's going to pass."
By Steve Elliott
Florida Governor Rick Scott on Monday signed into law a bill allowing the limited use of Charlotte's Web, a specialized strain of marijuana with high cannabidiol (CBD) and almost no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The "Charlottes Web" strain, which is used to quell seizures, is non-psychoactive and is named for a Colorado girl whose seizures have been lessened by the strain.
Florida legislators passed the measure earlier this spring with bipartisan support after emotional appeals from parents seeking Charlotte's Web for their kids, reports Bill Cotterell at Reuters.
The reason they asked for, and got a law specifying, the Charlotte's Web strain isn't because it's the only high-CBD strain of cannabis; there are in fact several others. The reason is because Charlotte's Web is the only high-CBD strain mentioned in Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Weed 2 documentary, so that's the only one the Florida of which the parents and legislators in Florida were aware.
Of course, the Stanley brothers in Colorado are more than happy to have laws written in other states that specifies their particular strain, since they stand to make millions of dollars from it.
By Steve Elliott
A recent poll in Florida has shown support for medical marijuana at almost 90 percent. The medicinal cannabis question on the ballot could even affect the gubernatorial race. But in a move of questionable political wisdom, deep-pocketed Republicans have raised more than $7.7 million to fight Amendment 2, a proposal to allow doctors to authorize seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana.
The latest financial reports from the two biggest groups fighting medicinal cannabis in the Sunshine State show that the Drug Free Florida campaign alone has raised $2.7 million, including a single $2.5 million contribution from Las Vegas casino magnate and GOP wheeler dealer Sheldon Adelson, reports Bill Cotterell of Reuters.
Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., is one of the richest men in the world, and not coincidentally, one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post. He spent $150 million supporting GOP candidates in the 2012 elections -- almost all of whom lost.
Joining the Republicans in their anti-pot fight this week was the supposedly "non-partisan" Florida Sheriffs Association, which began sponsoring an inane, almost fact-free "educational campaign" against the medical marijuana amendment.
By Steve Elliott
Florida continues its run as one of the most entertaining states in the union this week, as cops arrested a man on domestic battery and drug charges for whipping his brother with some three-foot marijuana plants.
Rodney Brown, 31, and his 33-year-old brother Jackie got in a big argument at their shared home in Lakeland, reports WESH.com.
While fighting with his brother, Rodney uprooted several cannabis plants on the property, some up to three feet tall, and started hitting his brother in the face with them. The brother didn't take too kindly to that, and apparently called the police.
Rodney then foolishly allowed the arriving cops to search the property. They found 10 more cannabis plants outside, and "drug paraphernalia" inside the house.
Rodney was taken to jail, where he posted bail.
Photo of Rodney Brown: New York Daily News
By Steve Elliott
An anti-marijuana group operating the website DontLetFloridaGoToPot.com has claimed that minors would be allowed to use medicinal cannabis under Florida's proposed November ballot amendment, but that's just not true.
Among the talking points of Don't Let Florida Go To Pot is the claim that "The amendment allows a teenager to get a recommendation for medical marijuana without the consent of a parent," reports Joshua Gillin at the Tampa Bay Times.
Amendment 2, the proposed change to Florida's state constitution, calls for the state to allow patients with cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and other conditions to be authorized for medical marijuana by a physician. If 60 percent of voters approve the amendment, the state will be required to set up a medical marijuana dispensary system and write regulations for growing and selling cannabis.
More than 40 "coalition partners" are listed by the Don't Let Florida Go To Pot website, and, according to the Orlando Sentinel, is run by Save Our Society From Drugs, a St. Petersburg-based wingnut lobbying group, along with the Florida Sheriffs Association.
By Steve Elliott
Amendment No. 2, the medical marijuana question on Florida's ballot for the November general election, is supported by more than 80 percent of Sunshine State residents, according to the latest polls. But a new group, the Vote No On 2 campaign, has launched a website and video denouncing the amendment as legalizing weed for "money for dope dealers."
The organization claims that the amendment would allow unrestricted sale and use of cannabis by anyone, even minors, in a virtually unregulated setting like that in California, reports William March at The Tampa Tribune.
The group's web video uses scenes from the Venice Beach boardwalk, where marijuana dispensaries and storefront doctors allow people to get authorized and buy medical marijuana within minutes.
But backers of Amendment 2 deny these claims, saying the amendment is designed to allow only legitimate medical use under rules set up by the Florida Health Department and Legislature.
The video also injects racial undertones into the debate, according to state Senator Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens), who said last week that its use of a black former drug dealer to stoke fears of unregulated marijuana sales is fear-mongering.
Racing fans might wonder whatever happened to one the world’s most exciting young stars, 1986 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, Randy Lanier. These days, Lanier can be found at Coleman Federal Prison in Florida where he is in his 26th year of incarceration serving a sentence of life without parole for a first time, nonviolent marijuana offense.
At the time of his indictment, Lanier was poised to become one of racing’s all time greats. In 1980 he had four wins in his own, self-financed 1957 Porsche Speedster. In 1984 he earned the IMSA GTP Championship and was named “Most Improved Driver.” His 1986 Vanderbilt Rookie of the Year award preceded his 1986 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year nod. By 1987, the United States federal government had put an end to his racing dreams.
Lanier had no prior offenses, and no weapons were involved in the “continuing criminal enterprise” he was accused of running, While others were indicted and incarcerated, only Lanier and one other remain behind bars.
Like most prisoners serving life sentences for marijuana Lanier’s refusal to “cooperate,” in other words indict others, helped bring about his sentence of “natural death” in prison.
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana will be on the ballot this November in Florida -- but a high school student in Lakeland is fighting for permission to report on that story after being told it couldn't appear in the school newspaper.
Abbey Laine, 18, was denied permission to publish an article about Amendment 2, the medical marijuana ballot question that would appear in the Lakeland High School Bagpipe, reports WTSP 10 News.
"The story that I was pitching to write about was a neutral, non-biased, breaking news story on medical marijuana," said Laine. But her teacher shot the idea down. "(They said) it would be inappropriate and unacceptable," she said, reports Jorge Estevez at WFTV.
"She basically acted as if it was just preposterous that I would try to include a drug-related article in a high school magazine," Laine said.
Appealing the case to the high school principal didn't do any good, Laine said. "They were both as vague as possible without really giving an answer," she said.
Growing Interest in Florida Fueled By Recent Passage of Low-THC Medical Marijuana Bill and Upcoming November Vote to Legalize Medical Marijuana
May and June: Lawyers, Physicians and Entrepreneurs from Colorado, California, and Washington to Provide Blueprint for Florida’s Next New Industry
The Florida Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Institute, a medical marijuana training and business institute, has launched in Miami, Florida.
There is growing interest in the medical marijuana industry as Florida stands on the verge of becoming the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana. This week, legislators in Tallahassee passed a bill to allow low-THC marijuana to be used for medical purposes ("CBD only" bill). In November, residents will vote on Amendment 2, a comprehensive medical marijuana law.
“The vast majority of Americans -- and Floridians -- support laws that allow access to medical marijuana when recommended by a physician to help with ailments like cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, and epilepsy," Jan Frel, co-founder of Florida MMTC. “With Florida on the verge of joining the 21 other states that allow medical marijuana, now is the time for people who are interested in this emerging industry to learn best practices from around the country."
The Institute’s educational programs are the launching pad for a serious entry into this promising market. Growing numbers of business-minded, care-oriented Floridians are seeking professional education to guide their entry into the field.
By Steve Elliott
Florida Governor Rick Scott, running for reelection in November, on Thursday said he would sign legislation allowing a non-psychoactive medical marijuana extract low in THC but high in CBD to treat children and other patients suffering from seizures.
Despite his firm opposition to an actual medical marijuana law, Gov. Scott said he would sign the so-called Charlotte's Web bill, which passed the Republican-controlled House with bipartisan support on Thursday, reports Andrew Perez at The Huffington Post.
Charlotte's Web is one of many high-CBD strains of marijuana, but in a development that undoubtedly makes the Stanley Brothers of Colorado very happy (and quite rich), it seems to be the one that gets all the media attention. Ill-informed state lawmakers such as those in Florida who want to appear to care about patients, and of course want to therefore get a lot of votes, know just enough about medical marijuana to have maybe watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "Weed" specials, and they learned from it, or from second-hand accounts of the show, that "Charlotte's Web" doesn't get kids stoned and helps quell seizures.
So then they pass restrictive legislation, sometimes even requiring the specific strain, Charlotte's Web, which enriches the Stanley Brothers while leaving out in the cold other high-CBD strains such as Cannatonic and Harlequin.
Interest in Florida medical marijuana is so high, March's Meet the Experts conference in West Palm Beach was sold out and dozens were turned away. The organizer told Hemp News he has had to move their next conference to a larger South Florida venue.
Businessmen, investors, doctors, lawyers, would-be dispensary owners, future medical marijuana growers and caterers flocked to the last seminar in West Palm Beach. Conference promoter and Silver Tour founder, Robert Platshorn, is hosting Meet the Experts II, on May 17, at the Emerald Hills Country Club, near Fort Lauderdale Airport.
"I felt bad at the last event, cramming in over a hundred and twenty people," Platshorn said. "But many who showed up ticketless, were stuffing hundred dollar bills in my pockets and pleading just to be able to stand in the back for 10 hours."
No surprise! Platshorn's lineup of speakers is a list of superstars of the marijuana industry. Discovery Channel's Mike Boutin, featured on "Weed Country," has grown medical marijuana for more than 30 years. Keynote speaker Ean Seeb is Chairman of the National Cannabis Industry Association. Along with his partner Kayvan Khalatbari they founded Denver Relief and Consulting, featured on 60 Minutes and considered the model dispensary for America. The partners are helping entrepreneurs in several states obtain licenses and establish successful businesses practices.
By Steve Elliott
The Florida House Judiciary Committee on Monday approved a plan to allow doctors to authorize patients to use a non-psychoactive marijuana extract which provides relief from seizures and pain.
HB 843, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), passed on a 15-3 vote over some determined opposition, reports Health News Florida. Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong opposed the bill, and warned the committee that it is "unwise" for the Legislature to allow untested drugs to market rather than going through the lengthy process of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
"We must be wary of unintended consequences and remember that first we must do no harm," said Armstrong, who also heads the Florida Department of Health. Anecdotal reports have indicated that cannabidiol (CBD) oil is quite effective in quelling seizures, and parents like it because it doesn't get their children high, as would THC, the other major medicinal cannabinoid in marijuana.
The bill would set up four regional organizations around Florida that could grow, test and dispense CBD oil. It wouldn't have enough THC in it to get you high, but would be rich in CBD, which appears to have anti-seizure effects.