Florida: CBD-Only Cannabis Oil Bill Approved By House Judiciary Committee


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

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.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Campaign Manager Blasts CPS Investigation Of Advocate


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The campaign manager of Florida's medical marijuana ballot drive has expressed outrage after a woman last week was abruptly visited by Child Protective Services on an anonymous tip that she had been giving marijuana to her son, who suffers from a rare form of severe epilepsy.

Renee Petro, the advocate in question, wasn't administering any cannabis to her 12-year-old son, Branden, reports Chris Joseph at Broward Palm Beach New Times. But that didn't stop CPS agents coming into her home to interrogate Petro's 9-year-old daughter and the nurse who helps take care of Branden.

"This is exactly why Floridians need to pass Amendment 2 in November," said Ben Pollara, campaign manager with United For Care, the main organization backing the ballot initiative. "And why we need everyone's support to get word out about stories like Renee's and her family's."

Petro gives Branden his prescribed medications, as well as legal hemp oil. Since she hadn't actually broken the law, her experience could be considered even more egregious than that of Cathy Jordan, the wheelchair-bound activist with Lou Gehrig's disease who was raided by police after a tip last year when a neighbor spotted some marijuana plants on the property of Jordan and her husband Robert. (Jordan's charges were dropped by the State Attorney's office in Manatee in April 2013.)

Florida: Medical Marijuana Amendment Could Help Democrats


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida is the nation's largest swing-state politically, and Democrats there see the medical marijuana amendment on this year's ballot as a source of hope and high voter turnout in November's elections.

A constitutional amendment which would legalize medical marijuana in Florida, making it the first state in South to do so, has widespread public support, reports Michael J. Mishak of The Associated Press. The measure is particularly popular among young voters, a critical part of the Democratic coalition.

"I wish that it didn't take medical marijuana on the ballot to motivate our young voters to go and vote, because there's far too much at stake for them and their children," said Ana Cruz, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. "But listen -- we'll take it any way we can get it."

The Florida Governor's mansion is up for grabs, as are a handful of competitive House seats. Florida could be a test case for whether increases in youth turnout in Washington and Colorado in 2012 -- when marijuana legalization initiatives were on the ballot -- was an anomaly, or part of a trend.

Activists plan to launch at least half-a-dozen legalization campaigns in battleground states in 2016.

"It's a smart move on Democrats' part, said Colorado-based Republican pollster David Flaherty. "It's going to help them, no doubt about it."

Florida: Cities Planning Ahead For Legalized Medical Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Several cities in South Florida are planning for the day when the Sunshine State legalizes marijuana for medicinal use.

The ballot initiative, Amendment 2, won't go before voters until November, but Pembroke Park recently became among the first in the state to consider regulating grow houses, reports Lisa J. Hurlash at the Sun Sentinel.

"There is a problem that every city is going to have to solve," said Town Manager Bob Levy. "It's better to be ahead of the game than lagging behind."

While some cities are waiting for the outcome of the state referendum in November, Lauderhill, Pembroke Park and Sunrise have all recently begun to plan for legal medical marijuana.

Lauderhill and Sunrise want to be proactive on pot.

Lauderhill City Hall staff members are looking into how the law "will affect health care costs and internal policies," according to city spokesperson Leslie Johnson. "We need to start looking at how it will affect the workplace," she said. "It's so new we don't really know what's coming."

The city of Sunrise is collecting information so it can deal with any marijuana-related issues that may arise. "We have been looking at the effects of potential medical marijuana legislation on our employees and operations, and on the services we provide," said spokeswoman Christine Pfeffer.

Florida: House Committee Approves CBD-Only Medical Marijuana Proposal


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A key committee in the Florida House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to approve medical use of a non-psychoactive marijuana extract that has shown promise jn treating seizures.

"We have evidence of benefits," said Republican Rep. Cary Pigman, who is also an emergency room physician, reports Bill Cotterell at Reuters. "We have no evidence of harm."

The Florida House Criminal Justice Committee approved the proposal, which would allow medical use of cannabidiol (CBD), on an 11-1 vote. Before the vote, Rep. Pigman referred to parents in the audience who had told of their children having epileptic seizures that destroy brain cells.

Families told the House committee that a high-CBD strain of marijuana bred in Colorado l

The CBD-only bill isn't related to a constitutional amendment put on November's ballot in Florida by a public petition campaign, People United For Medical Marijuana. That measure would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses.

Florida: Lawmakers Introduce Medical Marijuana Bills As Issue Heads Toward Ballot


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida lawmakers on Monday introduced identical bills in both houses of the Legislature to legalize medical marijuana in a bid to win approval before a constitutional amendment on the issue is decided by voters in November.

Democratic Senators Jeff Clemens and Joe Saunders brought patients and family members to the news conference announcing the bill, which they said would effectively implement by statute the constitutional amendment upon which voters will decide this fall, reports Bill Cotterell of Reuters.

"This bill puts patients before politics," said Cathy Jordan of Parrish, Florida, president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. Jordan has lived for 28 years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Her speech is slurred by her illness; she sat in her wheelchair as her husband, Robert, read her statement at the news conference announcing the bill.

The constitutional amendment on this November's ballot -- and the newly introduced bills -- would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS and other severe afflictions.

The legislative session which starts March 4 will be the fourth year a medical marijuana bill has been introduced. Republicans in the Florida Legislature strongly oppose the constitutional amendment, and they are joined in their opposition by GOP Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Florida: First Cannabis College Opens In The Sunshine State


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The first cannabis college in Florida opened on Tuesday, starting classes in an old cigar factory in Tampa.

The school, named Medical Marijuana Tampa, offers a four-week course for $499 including the e-textbook, videos and articles, according to the college's website, reports Adrienne Cutway at the Orlando Sentinel.

Included on the syllabus are classes on the history of cannabis, types of marijuana, cultivation, making bubble hash and edibles, and building the grower network.

"It will cover the historical, legal, botanical aspects of medicinal marijuana, plus what's going to happen in the marketplace in Florida in 2015 based on our analysis of the ballot language," Jeremy Bufford, the proprietor, told Deirdra Funcheon at Broward Palm Beach New Times.

"We can make educated guesses and prepare our students for careers or opportunity that's going to develop in that space," Bufford said.

"We do know according to the language that we'll be able to cultivate and w'ell be able to procure that medicine on behalf of our patients," he said, reports Jason Beisel at ABC Action News. "

U.S.: Marijuana Refugees Face Moving Challenges


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Moriah Barnhart's determination to help her 2-year-old daughter, Dahlia, fight a cancerous brain tumor led them to become part of a new social phenomenon: medical marijuana refugees.

Within weeks of Dahlia being diagnosed, Barnhart packed the family's bags to move from Tampa, Florida, to Memphis, Tennessee, where the toddler could undergo treatment at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, reports Kelli Grant at CNBC. While in Memphis, Barnhart learned through her research that medical marijuana was a worthy treatment, and might mitigate the harsh effects of chemotherapy.

"It just was the safest and most viable, effective option," Barnhart said. "But it was illegal in Tennessee and Florida."

Thus the Barnharts joined the ranks of marijuana refugees who have relocated or are planning to move in order to gain safe access to medicinal cannabis. Twenty states and the District of Columbia currently allow the medical use of marijuana for certain conditions, and several other states have such laws being considered this year.

Advocates say they hear from plenty of families who move for safe access. "As soon as we have the intake form up, we're swamped with requests," said Lindsey Rinehart, cofounder of the Undergreen Railroad, organized to help patients and their families defray the expenses of moving to medical marijuana states.

Rinehart herself had to move from Idaho to Oregon last summer to treat her multiple sclerosis with cannabis.

Florida: Voters Will Get To Decide On Medical Marijuana In November


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Floridians will get to decide the medical marijuana question for themselves this November. A measure that would amend the state constitution to allow the medicinal use of cannabis in the Sunshine State cleared its final hurdle on Monday when the Florida Supreme Court approved its language.

The justices approved the language by a 4-3 vote in a huge defeat for Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, who challenged the ballot language, claiming it was "misleading." Bondi claimed the ballot language misleadingly said that the state can trump federal marijuana laws, and that the measure might allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for "non-critical" ailments.

Personal injury lawyer John Morgan, a political powerbroker in the state, has contributed about $4 million to the People United For Medical Marijuana campaign, to get the issue before voters, reports The Associated Press.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes medical marijuana. Both of his Democratic challengers -- state Sen. Nan Rich and former Gov. Charlie Crist -- support the measure.

The measure still faces a daunting challenge. Florida law requires that constitutional amendments get 60 percent of the vote to pass, not a simple majority.

A Quinnipiac University poll in November found overwhelming support -- 82 percent -- among Floridians for allowing adults to use cannabis for medical reasons if their doctor authorizes it. Just 16 percent said they were opposed.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Backers Say They Have Enough Signatures


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Supporters of a medical marijuana initiative in Florida on Wednesday announced they have collected enough signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.

Campaign manager Ben Pollara of United For Care, which is sponsoring a constitutional amendment to legalize medicinal cannabis in Florida, sent out an email to supporters that the group has collected more than 1.1 million signatures, reports NBC Miami.

Organizers face a February 1 deadline to turn in 683,189 valid voter signatures in order to qualify. Election supervisors have already certified nearly 458,000 signatures.

"Literally thousands of volunteers contributed their time, collecting petitions in the rain and heat, on their weekends and holidays," Pollara said.

The Florida Supreme Court must approve the language that will go on the ballot, even if there are enough signatures. Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging the wording, claiming voters will be misled into approving widespread use of marijuana.

The court has until April to make its ruling on whether the ballot summary is misleading. Citizen initiatives are limited to 75 word summaries; the medical marijuana initiative's ballot summary has 74 words.

If the court approves the wording, the measure would need 60 percent of the vote, rather than a simple majority. Florida law requires that constitutional amendments get 60 percent.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Ballot Petition Nears Signature Goal


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A petition drive in Florida for the medical use of marijuana is nearing its signature goal, according to organizers, who said they expect to submit enough signatures this week to get the issue on ballots in time for November's election.

Campaign organizers have to get 683,149 valid voter signatures before February 1 in order to qualify. Almost one in three signatures are typically rejected, but polls show the petition has a good chance of success, reports Bill Cotterell of Reuters.

Backers are shooting for about 1 million signatures, to account for any ruled invalid; organizers say they will hit the million-signature mark by next week, reports Reid Wilson at The Washington Post.

"By this time next week, we should have more than enough to give us some comfort that we should be on the ballot," said Ben Pollara, who runs the People United For Medical Marijuana campaign that's backing the initiative.

So far, PUFMM has submitted 265,000 valid signatures, according to the Florida Department of Elections. The group says it still has hundreds of thousands of signatures being processed by county elections officials.

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan has contributed $3 million to the campaign.

Florida: 'Marijuana Court' Judge Caught Drunk On The Job


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Florida judge apparently came to work drunk last week, and her inebriated antics at the bench caused such an uproar that the chief judge had to take things in hand.

Pollack came into a Broward County court obviously drunk last week, calling for her staff to be fired, reports Deirdra Funcheon at the Broward-Palm Beach New Times. Chief Judge Peter Weinstein reportedly had to be called out of a meeting to personally remove the juiced judge from the courtroom.

"The staff tried to keep the judge off the bench," reports Red Broward at The Daily Broward. "The Judge's response was basically "Fuck you; you're fired."

Broward himself declined to name the drunken judge, but her name was soon revealed on Jaablog, an insider blog targeted to lawyers and judges, and Broward Beat soon also named her.

The judge had been "writing irrational emails" lately, according to Broward Beat. One recent day, Judge Pollack was seen entering the courthouse through an exit door, according to a source, a security no-no.

Florida: Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Medical Marijuana Ballot Drive


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Should Florida voters be allowed to decide the medical marijuana question for themselves? The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday began hearing arguments that could determine whether voters get to make the call at the ballot box next year.

For the past three years, medical marijuana bills in the Florida Legislature died without Republican leaders even scheduling a vote. Cannabis advocates say they are now acting because the Legislature failed to lead.

Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow the medicinal use of cannabis with a doctor's authorization want the court to rule the proposal does not meet ballot requirements, reports Scott Powers at the Sun Sentinel. Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other opponents claim the ballot language, limited by law to 90 words, is a misleading summary of the six-page amendment.

They also claim that the amendment changes more than one government function, while under Florida law, constitutional amendments must be limited to "single subjects." Opponents claim the proposed medical marijuana law affects the Department of Health, the Florida Legislature, law enforcement, open records and courts.

Florida: With 80% Favoring Medical Marijuana, Opponents Turn To Supreme Court To Stop Measure


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Eighty percent of Floridians favor medical marijuana, according to the latest poll, so opponents, seeing little hope at the ballot box, have now turned to the Florida Supreme Court to stop the momentum of a proposed ballot initiative which would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in the Sunshine State.

The state Supreme Court on December 5 will hear arguments over the language of the medical marijuana proposal, reports Lloyd Dunkelberger at the Herald Tribune. Sponsors need nearly 700,000 valid voter signatures by February in order to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other opponents of the measure claim the ballot language is misleading and would lead to "widespread use of marijuana." Supporters say they are backing the constitutional amendment because state legislators refuse to legalize medical marijuana, and are out of touch with ordinary Floridians on the subject.

A Quinnipiac University poll this month showed Florida voters approve of letting doctors authorize patients to use medical marijuana, 82 percent to 16 percent.

The ballot language is an attempt to let Floridians decide for themselves whether to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, as 20 other states have done, according to trial lawyer John Morgan, the chief financial backer of the measure.

Florida: Couple Accidentally Brings Home 11 Pounds of Marijuana From Louisiana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Florida couple accidentally brought home an 11-pound stash of marijuana when they returned from Louisiana, according to police.

The husband and wife carried the weed on a 900-mile trip before getting back home to Key Largo, Florida, at which point they finally found it inside two mysterious suitcases, reports Doyle Murphy at the New York Daily News. Instead of throwing a party, the easily alarmed couple called the sheriff's department.

"This could have been really bad," claimed Monroe County Sheriff Sgt. Al Ramirez. "These people were traveling all over with this stuff in their truck. If they had been pulled over with it, they could have would up in jail and their truck may have been seized." Well, Sheriff, maybe it shouldn't be against the law, eh?

It all began back in July when an unidentified package showed up at one of the couple's rental properties in Louisiana. The husband instructed a housekeeper to ship it back to UPS. The cleaning lady did return the box, but it was later shipped back to the rental again, and she put it inside, the husband told a deputy.

When the couple took a trip to check on their vacation properties in Louisiana, the box was still there. They opened it and found two locked blue suitcases inside.

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