Florida for Care on Monday applauded the filing of Senate Bill 528, a piece of comprehensive medical marijuana legislation drafted and filed by Senator Jeff Brandes, the Republican representing District 22.
“We are very excited to see Sen. Brandes file this important piece of legislation,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care. "Sen. Brandes has taken a courageous step in service of making the voice of Floridians heard on this issue."
One such voice is that of Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre, whose mother suffered from cancer. "I'm very encouraged by Sen. Brandes' bill," Sheriff Manfre said. "As a sheriff and as the son of a cancer survivor, responsible, comprehensive, medical marijuana legislation is critically important to me."
"I hope my fellow sheriffs will see this bill in the same light and work towards consensus on this issue which is deeply personal to many Floridians, as it is to me," Manfre said.
The bill is considerably more comprehensive than previously passed Senate Bill 1030, which allowed only for a low-THC, high-CBD strain of marijuana that would primarily help those suffering with epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
“While SB 1030 was monumental in that our Legislature -- for the first time -- recognized marijuana as medicine, it simply did not help all sick and suffering Floridians in the way that Sen. Brandes’ bill would, if passed,” said Dan Rogers, director of legislative affairs for Florida for Care.
By Steve Elliott
Sometimes you just know someone really means it when you see the message on their t-shirt. A Florida man was arrested in Kmart wearing a black t-shirt that asked in large white letters: "Who Needs Drugs?" Beneath that, the shirt says in smaller lettering, "No, seriously, I have drugs."
John Balmer, an unemployed 50-year-old Pennsylvania native living in Spring Hill, Florida, entered the Kmart at 12412 U.S. 19 Monday night wearing the shirt, reports Geoff Fox at The Tampa Tribune.
Balmer was reportedly waiting in a checkout line at the store when a deputy entered. When Balmer saw the deputy, he attempted to pass a plastic bag containing marijuana and methamphetamine to the person standing behind him in line, according to a sheriff's report.
When the person refused the bag, Balmer walked to another cash register and dropped the bag on the floor, according to the report.
Balmer was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana; he's been arrested in Pasco several times since 2006, according to the sheriff's office. In 2002, he got just over a year in state prison for burglary and trafficking in stolen property, according to state corrections records.
Balmer was in the Land O'Lakes Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $2,150, according to jail records.
Photo of John Balmer: The Fix
Florida's medical marijuana initiative lost momentum in 2014 after falling just short of the 60 percent needed to pass. But most Floridians believe that it's no longer a question of it, but when, medicinal cannabis comes to the Sunshine State.
The fact of the matter is that nearly 3.5 million Florida voters supported Amendment 2 -- medical marijuana -- in 2014. United for Care has already begun the process of collecting signatures to get medical marijuana back on the ballot for 2016, and pressure is mounting on the Florida Legislature to expand the already existing CBD-only "Charlotte's Web" law to include higher-THC strains as well.
That's why Sheridan Rafer, founder of the Institute of Medical Cannabis in Boca Raton, says "2015 should actually be a big year for medical marijuana and we will continue to provide education and training."
According to Rafer, last year, the Institute of Medical Cannabis, or IMC Florida for short, signed up more than 300 members and trained more than 100 individuals. The Institute offers four courses, primarily focusing on cultivation.
At IMC, students learn about medical marijuana and the medicinal cannabis industry while attending lectures and receiving practical training in "fully operational grow rooms." However, the Institute notes, "Until changes are initiated in the state and/or federal law, all hands-on training at IMC will be conducted with vegetables and herbs which are organically similar to cannabis."
A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found evidence that physician dispensing encouraged some physicians to unnecessarily prescribe strong opioids. The study analyzed the prescribing behavior after Florida banned physician dispensing of strong opioids.
The authors of the study, "The Impact of Physician Dispensing on Opioid Use," expected little change in the percentage of patients getting strong opioids — only a change from physician-dispensed to pharmacy-dispensed. Instead of finding an increase in pharmacy-dispensed strong opioids, the study found no material change.
Rather, there was an increase in the percentage of patients receiving physician-dispensed weaker pain medications—specifically, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., ibuprofen)—from 24.1 percent to 25.8 percent, and the percentage receiving weaker (not banned) opioids increased from 9.1 percent to 10.1 percent.
The study found there was a high level of compliance with the ban by physician-dispensers. Prior to the reforms, 3.9 percent of injured workers received strong opioids dispensed by physicians during the first six months after their injuries. After the ban, only 0.5 percent of patients with new injuries received physician-dispensed strong opioids.
A three-judge panel at the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that a 2011 Florida law mandating that all applicants for the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program submit to suspicionless drug tests violates the Constitution's protection against unreasonable government searches.
The law, championed by Florida Governor Rick Scott in his 2010 campaign for governor and before the Legislature in 2011, was challenged in September 2011 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute, on behalf of Luis Lebron, a single father, Navy veteran, and then-college student. The ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project later joined the suit.
The 11th Circuit panel's order rejects arguments made by attorneys for the State of Florida that government has the authority to require people to submit to invasive searches of their bodily fluids without suspicion of wrongdoing, stating "the warrantless, suspicionless urinalysis drug testing of every Florida TANF applicant as a mandatory requirement for receiving Temporary Cash Assistance offends the Fourth Amendment."
Plans Expansion of Line Of Hemp CBD Oils to Compete with Leading Pharmaceutical Products
Florida-based nutraceuticals company Zappy, Inc. has agreed to acquire Browns Botanicals and plans to release proprietary hemp CBD formulations for potential aid in various ailments including anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, nausea, pain and other ailments.
The formulations were developed using Hemp CBD Oil derived from industrial hemp, which it says is legal in all 50 states and 40 countries. Browns Botanicals is a nutraceutical leader specializing in the highest purity legal Hemp CBD-rich botanical products.
"We are honored to have Browns Botanicals as the backbone of the hemp-derived cannabinoids and terpenes science that we are bringing to customers," said Mike "Zappy" Zapolin, CEO of Zappy Inc. "Browns is well known in the industry for having the very best CBD products, and testimonials from customers with various illnesses, including epilepsy and several different auto-immune issues, are incredible."
Browns Botanicals recently won the first ever "Best Non-Edible Medically Infused Product" at the 2014 Cannabis Cup with an Industrial Hemp-derived CBD oil product, beating out the competition with their CBDemu, which is being used by Olympic athletes and sports teams.
Oregon and D.C. – And Alaska? – Pass Marijuana Legalization, as California and New Jersey Pass Groundbreaking Criminal Justice Reforms
DPA: Election Solidifies Drug Policy Reform as Mainstream Political Issue, Boosts Efforts to Legalize Marijuana in California and Elsewhere in 2016
Voters across the country have accelerated the unprecedented momentum to legalize marijuana and end the wider Drug War, with marijuana legalization measures passing in Oregon and Washington, D.C., while groundbreaking criminal justice reforms passed in California and New Jersey.
“This Election Day was an extraordinary one for the marijuana and criminal justice reform movements,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Oregon proved that Colorado and Washington were no flukes.
"Washington, D.C. voters sent a powerful message to Congress that federal marijuana prohibition has no place in the nation’s capital," Nadelmann said. "Voters in Florida and Guam demonstrated that medical marijuana could win big even in fairly conservative jurisdictions. And California and New Jersey revealed an electorate eager to reduce prison populations and the power of the prison industrial complex.”
By Steve Elliott
Florida's voters have narrowly rejected the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. A big majority of state voters voted in favor of medicinal cannabis, but state law requires a 60 percent majority to amend the Florida Constitution.
The Associated Press has projected that Amendment 2, Florida's medical marijuana constitutional amendment, which needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, has narrowly failed. With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, about 57 percent of voters voted yes.
The campaign was among the most expensive ballot measures in the country, reports the Associated Press, with millions spent on both sides. Twentieth-century Reefer Madness myths were pulled out and aired as fact as part of the misleading tactics used by the No On 2 side, funded largely by Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Florida lawmakers had passed a very limited, CBD-only "medical marijuana law" earlier this year to allow non-psychoactive strains of cannabis for epilepsy patients. But Amendment 2 supporters argued a more inclusive law was necessary to make medicinal cannabis available to a broader group of patients.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) will be covering the elections to legalize marijuana in Alaska, Oregon and D.C.; Prop. 47 in California, which would defelonize minor drug possession and other nonviolent crimes; and the battle to legalize medical marijuana in Florida with up-to-the-minute updates on Twitter, press releases as soon as results are announced, and frequent blog updates as results come in.
"In addition, some of our top representatives will be standing by for comment," said LEAP spokesperson Darby Beck.
In advance of the elections, Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, who has seen legalization firsthand and just spent a week touring Alaska to talk about marijuana legalization, will be hosting a Reddit IAMA on Tuesday at 4 pm PT/7 pm ET to discuss the current ballot measures and why he thinks legalization is good for public safety.
The title will be "IAMA Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and I want to legalize marijuana. AMA!"
A Crucial Election Season for Legalizing Marijuana and Ending the Drug War
Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana, and Sentencing Reform Initiatives in Oregon, Alaska, D.C., Florida, California, New Mexico, New Jersey and More
Voters across the United States on November 4 will have a chance to accelerate the unprecedented momentum to legalize marijuana and end the wider Drug War. Voter initiatives – primarily reforming or repealing marijuana laws – appear on the ballots in seven states, at least 17 municipalities, and one U.S. territory.
Here are a few of the key ones:
Oregon: Passage of Measure 91 would make Oregon the third state to legally regulate marijuana.
Alaska: Measure 2 would make Alaska the first red state to legalize marijuana for adult use.
Florida Amendment 2, the only statewide medical marijuana initiative this year, would be the first comprehensive medical marijuana law in the South.
California: Proposition 47 would take a significant step toward reducing mass incarceration by changing six low-level, nonviolent offenses (including simple drug possession) from felonies to misdemeanors.
District of Columbia: Initiative 71 would make it legal for adults to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana in our nation’s capital.
Alaska and Oregon could make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it like alcohol; Washington, D.C. and two of Maine’s largest cities could make marijuana legal for adults; Florida could become 24th state to allow seriously ill people to access medical marijuana
States, cities, and the nation’s capital will vote on marijuana policy ballot measures on Tuesday.
“From Alaska to Maine, there is a whole lot of enthusiasm for ending marijuana prohibition,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It’s not easy to overcome 80 years of prohibition and anti-marijuana propaganda. But public attitudes are clearly shifting on this issue, and it’s only a matter of time before that is reflected in laws nationwide.”
In Alaska and Oregon, voters are considering statewide ballot measures that would make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol. The initiatives — Ballot Measure 2 in Alaska and Measure 91 in Oregon — would remove all legal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older.
The measures would also establish a regulatory framework for licensed businesses to cultivate, process, test, and sell marijuana to adults. If the initiatives are approved, Alaska and Oregon would be the third and fourth states to end marijuana prohibition.
As the midterm election approaches, representatives of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) are hard at work educating voters about the need for drug policy reform in states with relevant initiatives on the ballot.
A pair of police chiefs, Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and sitting Police Chief Larry Kirk, are in Alaska, where voters are about to weigh in on an initiative to legalize, regulate and control marijuana (Measure 2). The two went to seven towns between them, from Anchorage to Kodiak, to educate voters on the public safety benefits of legalization.
In the meantime, a former prosecutor and a retired lieutenant sheriff are doing a similar tour of Oregon (Measure 91) and a former police officer and former Customs agent are speaking to Florida voters about medical marijuana (Amendment 2). These tours have included meetings with civic clubs, conversations with the media and debates with opponents.
By Steve Elliott
A new poll shows that Amendment 2, the Florida ballot measure that would amend the state Constitution to allow medical marijuana, falling short at the polls next month.
Even supporters acknowledged on Thursday that the drive for medicinal cannabis in the Sunshine State is struggling in the face of well-funded conservative opposition, reports Bill Cotterell at Reuters.
After a two-week barrage of attack ads, the poll showed just 48 percent of Florida voters supporting the amendment to allow doctors to authorize cannabis for medicinal purposes. As a constitutional amendment, the measure needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.
The University of Florida Poll found 44 percent of voters were opposed to medical marijuana, with just 7 percent undecided.
"It's like a cliche in political races, but we're at a point when the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day," said Ben Pollara, who runs United For Care, the group behind Amendment 2.
Florida entrepreneurs hoping to learn more about opportunities in the medical marijuana industry have the opportunity to do exactly that at a conference in Orlando on November 1.
The event, hosted by DispensaryPermits.com, will bring together leading medical cannabis entrepreneurs and industry experts to provide information and guidance to dispensary and cultivation application hopefuls.
Attendees will get a chance to learn more about operating professional dispensary and cultivation facilities, how to connect with the medical marijuana patient community, navigating industry legalities, selecting suitable real estate, and generating community support.
"When we decided to apply for a permit, we didn't know where to begin," said one client of DispensaryPermits.com. "With all of the misinformation that was circulating among media and other interested entrepreneurs, our team realized we needed professionals to help guide us through the application process."
"DispensaryPermits.com has an outstanding track record of success in assisting clients apply for and obtain dispensary licenses in multiple states," said DispensaryPermits.com Executive Director Sara Gullickson. "We look forward to providing valuable information about the complex medical marijuana industry at this upcoming conference in Orlando."
By Steve Elliott
Federal marijuana prisoner Randy Lanier, 60, a former race car driver, will be released from prison after serving 26 years of a life sentence at the high-security Federal Correction Complex of Coleman in Florida for a 1988 conviction on leading a marijuana drug ring.
U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert has granted a motion by the federal government to reduce Lanier's life sentence and has approved his pending release, reports Jon Saraceno at Autoweek.com. Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. endorsed a proposal to reduce sentencing for convicted drug dealers, while seeking to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
"He has served his time with dignity and respect," said Stephen Ross Johnson, lead attorney for Lanier since 2002. "He has helped mentor young people in the prison system."
The brief order issued by Judge Gilbert gives no reason for the sentence reduction. In addition to his life sentence, Lanier was given an additional maximum of 40 years on a distribution charge and another five years on an IRS fraud charge.
Lanier's release comes with heavy restrictions, including drug-and-alcohol tests, no consumption of alcohol or patronizing of establishments that sell it, no firearms, and no lines of credit without approval from his probation officer.