By Steve Elliott
A new drive to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida was launched last week. West Palm Beach attorney Michael Minardi is proposing to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Minardi's group, Regulate Florida, needs 683,149 valid voter signatures by February 2, 2016, to get the Florida Cannabis Act on the ballot for November 2016, reports Michelle Quesada at ABC Action News. The group is going for a million signatures to make sure.
The proposal would amend the Florida Constitution, making buying marijuana roughly the same as picking up a bottle of liquor at the store, according to Minardi. "We trust people with alcohol; we trust people with tobacco," he said.
As long as you're 21 or older, you should be able to buy and use marijuana responsibly, Minardi said. "These people who are using them [drugs] are responsible adults and they should have the choice to do that," he said.
If approved, the measure would set a deadline of July 2017 for Florida state government to begin licensing and regulating commercial marijuana growers, processors and retailers, reports Michael Pollick at the Miami Herald Tribune.
Education can change people's perspectives, Minardi said, and the new law would help clear out jails.
By Steve Elliott
Charges have been dropped against an injured Iraq war veteran in Florida who was arrested after deputies said they found marijuana plants in his home.
Mathew Young was charged with cultivation after Pasco County deputies conducted a raid, reports Laurie Davison at Bay News 9. Young said a lawyer from Jacksonville gave him paperwork and false information that using medical marijuana is legal in Florida.
"I really to this day don't believe I did anything wrong," Young said. He said the marijuana gave him relief from medical problems he's had since returning from combat.
"It wasn't until I tried cannabis that everything turned around," Young said. "I could start functioning and start having a day. You have to have a day before you can start a life."
The State Attorney's Office dropped the charge against Young, saying he is "a cooperating witness in an ongoing investigation."
Young's attorney, Steve Gearhart, called it "justice." "Once I came back on the case in April, it was just getting the dialogue open with the State Attorney, providing them with information we had and working with them toward a common goal," Gearhart said.
Young said his condition has gotten worse since he was forced to stop using medical marijuana. "The reality and the prognosis is not all that positive for me," he said. "In eight months, I'm back in a wheelchair. Where am I going to be in 12 months?"
By Steve Elliott
Florida regulators said they expect to provide access to a strain of non-euphoric marijuana for medical purposes by the end of this year after a Tallahassee judge last week dismissed the final challenge to the long-awaited rule.
The Florida Department of Health is expected to start accepting applications within three weeks from eligible growers within three weeks for the strain of cannabis that is low in THC, the main "high"-inducing component, and high in cannabidiol (CBD), which, like THC, also has medicinal effects, reports Mary Ellen Klas at the Miami Herald.
Growers could start selling to eligible patients who are put on a state-run "compassionate use registry" within months.
"I am one happy legislator," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), one of the sponsors of the 2014 bill designed to allow the development and cultivation of the "Charlotte's Web" strain of low-THC cannabis to help patients suffering from epileptic seizures and other ailments. (The clueless legislators passed the law naming a specific strain of low-CBD marijuana, evidently unaware that there are lots of low-CBD medicinal strains, but in the process making the Stanley Brothers -- who control the supply of Charlotte's Web -- very happy.)
The Ninth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics will be held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on May 21 through May 23, with more 30 of the top healthcare professionals, doctors, and patients advocating Medical Cannabis treatments.
Patients out of Time is hosting The Ninth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on May 21 through May 23. Patients out of Time will bring together world-renowned experts in cannabis therapeutics to assist healthcare workers, related business interests, and the general public, from around the country, on ways to improve patient outcomes with the use of cannabis therapeutics.
The conference will have expert presentations, panel discussions and onsite exhibitors available to introduce healthcare professionals to the fundamental research on the use of cannabis as an effective and powerful medicine. This conference will award Continuing Medical Education credits for healthcare workers who participate in specific events.
There will also be a special benefit dinner and auction to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Patients Out of Time.
"Cannabis is a powerful and effective medicine, "said Mary Lynn Mathre, president and cofounder of Patients Out of Time and the president and founding member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about everything from cannabis healthcare administration to social advocacy from world leaders in the field."
BioTrackTHC™, a provider of seed-to-sale software tracking solutions for marijuana businesses and government regulators, on Thursday announced partnerships that provide the company's seed-to-sale medical marijuana tracking technology and training to the University of Technology, Jamaica and the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica.
The two universities are growing medical marijuana for research purposes and are the only entities legally allowed to grow marijuana in the country until business licenses are approved.
"We are proud to be working with both of Jamaica's institutions of higher learning to help bolster knowledge and infrastructure for the legal medical marijuana industry in Jamaica," said Patrick Vo, co-CEO, BioTrackTHC. "It's a mutual education process whereby our company is learning about the needs of Jamaica while sharing our technology and expertise that is leading the way in the rapidly expanding U.S. market.
"Our goal is to provide a solution that is tailored to meet the specific needs and priorities of the Jamaican people and their new medical marijuana industry," Vo said. "We look forward to the results of their research."
In Celebration of National Nurses Week, the American Cannabis Nurses Association will be sharing and presenting “Every Patient Deserves a Nurse” at Women Grow Signature Networking Events on Thursday, May 7
What is a Cannabis Nurse? The rapidly changing climate surrounding science & research of the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid therapeutics, makes a nurse’s role essential within the cannabis world spectrum.
Cannabis nurses understand cannabis as a treatment within a continuum of care which involves interacting components including other drugs and treatments, state/federal laws, and the physiology of illness, disease, daily living and aging. Cannabis nurses cultivate and maintain an attitude of respect and acceptance towards people who choose to use cannabis for health and well-being.
Above all, Cannabis nurses are educators. The American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) provides continued education for nurses by offering courses such as the Core Curriculum for Cannabis Nursing and the Advanced Curriculum: Beyond the Basics. Both courses will be offered as preconference workshops at the 20th Anniversary of the Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics: "Celebrating the Past -- Embracing the Future" May 21-23, West Palm Beach, Florida.
PSI to Develop Biometric Security Solutions for Cannabis Markets
Profile Solutions, Inc., a solution provider of access control and security systems, on Monday announced that cannabis expert Dr Gerry Bedore has joined the company as a consultant and member of its scientific advisory board.
Gerry Bedore is widely known as a thought leader in technology-enhanced learning models. He was a co-founder of Socrates Distance Learning Technology Group, and has published studies and books focused on online student success and completion rates.
Bedore is recognized as having developed many of the most successful higher education online programs in the world. As a horticulturist for the State of Georgia, Dr. Bedore was recognized for his expertise in entomology and pathology in the care of plant life in the state.
He has authored one book, co-authored two books, and has served as a research chair and committee member for more than 200 studies in education, psychology and business disciplines.
Dr. Bedore served in roles ranging from institutional President to Assistant Dean for Doctoral Programs. He is a member of the Cannabis Career Institute, is involved with cannabis agricultural development with Global Hemp Group, is serving in a leadership role for Cannabis State University, and is a U.S. disabled veteran.
By Steve Elliott
Voters in three critical swing states -- Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- support legalization of medical marijuana by margins of 5-1 or more and also support legalization of recreational marijuana use by smaller margins, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released on Monday.
Support for medical marijuana is 84 - 14 percent in Florida, 84 - 15 percent in Ohio and 88 - 10 percent in Pennsylvania, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. The Swing State Poll focuses on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960, no candidate has won the Presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.
Support for allowing adults "to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use" is 55 - 42 percent in Florida, 52 - 44 percent in Ohio and 51 - 45 percent in Pennsylvania.
But swing state voters say they don't plan to use marijuana themselves:
• 17 percent of Florida voters say they "definitely" or "probably" would use it, while 81 percent say they "probably" or "definitely" would not;
• 14 percent of Ohio voters say they "definitely" or "probably would use it, while 84 percent say "definitely" or "probably" not;
• 15 percent of Pennsylvania voters say they are likely to try, while 83 percent say no.
BioTrackTHC™, a provider of seed-to-sale software solutions for medical and retail marijuana businesses, has launched BioTrackTHC University, an intensive certification training program for the company's marijuana tracking systems.
"State regulators and the federal government are looking very closely at compliance in this rapidly growing and still controversial industry," said Dr. Moe Afaneh, chief operating officer, BioTrackTHC. "It's essential that business owners are fully trained and operate to the letter of the law."
The university said it provides rigorous and interactive training, including an in-depth review of all aspects of the commercial BioTrackTHC software; from grow house to dispensary and reporting. The in-person coursework also offers an opportunity for professionals to network with fellow industry professionals while enhancing knowledge and mastery of BioTrackTHC in a university style group setting.
The course training is designed to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to understand how to effectively and efficiently use BioTrackTHC software.
This week's launch of BioTrackTHC University's first training, which took place in Denver, attracted 75 attendees participating in the five-hour course. These attendees also received a sneak peek into the BioTrackTHC iKush and banking kiosk platforms, topics about which the company will announce more details in the coming weeks.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s interest in running for U.S. Senate has encountered strong resistance from a traditional ally of her party: medical marijuana activists.
Because of her bad congressional votes and her ham-fisted criticisms of a Florida medical marijuana initiative last year, four political groups that advocate prescription cannabis and drug decriminalization vowed to campaign against Wasserman Schultz if she were to seek a Senate seat in 2016, reports Marc Caputo at Politico. (<-- The entire piece, at that link, is really worth reading.)
“She’s voted repeatedly to send terminally ill patients to prison. And we’re certainly going to make sure Floridians know that — not to mince words,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director with the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).
“This issue is evolving very quickly, and hopefully she will evolve,” Piper said. “But if she doesn’t, you can expect medical marijuana patients and supporters to dog her on the campaign trail.”
Wasserman Schultz’s office declined to comment.
By Steve Elliott
An informal study by has shown Florida is the worst state in the Union for marijuana smokers.
Reporter Evan Anderson became curious about cannabis citations around the United States after reading a MuckRock piece by Beryl Anderson on citation data from California marijuana arrests after decriminalization. Copying the language used by MuckRock user Dave Maass to get California's numbers, Anderson requested the same data from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, Vermont and Washington. Data from Washington and Colorado, both of which have legalized pot, were unavailable at the time of the requests, and the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice never acknowledged his request.
The number of marijuana citations given in Florida "blows the rest of the states out or the water," Anderson reports in MuckRock.
Part of that is due to the unfortunate fact that possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis in Florida is a felony with a maximum punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
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.