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Marijuana Rule Making Take Two

August 1st, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

The proposed rules for growing and dispensing low grade marijuana are taking shape at the state Capitol. Regulators held a second hearing today, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, qualifying patients may soon be able to have the drug delivered.

It wasn’t the smell of pot, but of money that hung in the air of the standing room only rule making hearing. Doug Mannheimer, representing Costas Farms, warned that financial problems for nurseries could be on the horizon. “Many legal marijuana businesses around the country , in different states, find themselves, now, in a banking quagmire” says the veteran lobbyist.

The most compelling testimony came from two mothers spearheading the Charlotte’s Web effort. Paige Figi told regulators the emphasis should be on quality.  “Quality is very important. To have access to the proper quality.”

And Holly Mosley, who’s daughter Ray Ann was the poster child for the low THC drug in Florida says her only goal is to get the drug available for her child and others as quickly as possible. “I had an email just this morning from a mom, begging me, please help, I’m desperate. My daughter is in the ICU. How can I help get this here  faster” says Mosley.

But the earliest the drug will be available is spring, providing no one files a legal challenge.

Growers like this one will still be chosen by a lottery, but only the most experienced will make it into the pool.”

Grower who doesn’t make the lottery, or lose it could delay the availability. Sponsor Matt Gaetz says that would be unfortunate. “I hope that no one is so sinister that they would litigate their own business interests above the needs of dying children, but that remains to be seen” says Gaetz.

The final rule will allow just five growers and distributors, but the latest draft says that patients can request 30 day supplies be delivered from any of the five dispensaries.

The rule being developed also calls for inspections by the state and law enforcement. If the inspections find any irregularities such as the presence of heavy metals or mold, the entire batch would have to be destroyed.

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Two Weeks and No Answers

August 1st, 2014 by Matt Galka

Two weeks and still no answers in the shooting death of a well known Florida State law professor. Matt Galka tells us what’s next for police in the investigation.

14 days and still no suspects.  Well known FloridaS tate law professor Dan Markel’s shooting murder is still yielding more questions than answers.

Dave Northway/Tallahassee Police Department

“We investigate all leads. We do not specifically look at certain leads and say ‘those are not credible,’” said Tallahassee Police Department Public Information Officer Dave Northway.

Police have released scattered information in the two weeks since the Canadian born professor’s death. The latest was the 911 call from a neighbor.

Officials have admitted an error by a dispatcher delayed EMT response to the father of two. It took an ambulance 19 minutes to get to Markel’s home.

Police reports indicate the focus of the investigation was on the garage, and Markel was sitting in his car when the crime happened.

Police have released one photo. They are still searching for information on a Toyota Prius type vehicle that was seen leaving the area around the time of the shooting.

“What we’re asking for is that our community members give us the time to follow all the proper steps in the case and we bring the case to a close as quickly as possible,” said Northway.

A reward for information on the case started at $3,000. It has since been bumped to $10,000.

Tallahassee Police will not say whether or not they are working with other state or federal agencies in order to try and solve the case.

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Claim Your Stuff

July 31st, 2014 by Matt Galka

You could be entitled to some money or valuables that you never knew existed. Matt Galka tells us about the state’s unclaimed property, and the items they’re getting ready to auction off.

The vault in Tallahassee is a little different than Al Capone’s. Inside dozens of boxes are millions of dollars worth of valuables – and they all belong to Floridians.

“Every item here came from a safe deposit box, somewhere in a bank in the state of Florida,” said Bureau of Unclaimed Property Chief Watler Graham.

Every year, unclaimed property is turned over to the office of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.  The state waits at least 5 years before they auction it off.

“Florida traditionally is a state where people from other parts of the country come to retire. Maybe their children and other relatives are still in other parts of the country, and maybe they didn’t know about this particular account or this particular safe deposit box,” said Graham.

The annual auction held next week in Orlando will feature just about everything. From a nearly hundred year old gold flute to a gold pocket watch from 1856. There will even be baseball cards featuring Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.

If the owners eventually come forward, they’re entitled to the auction money, too.

The CFO’s office estimates they have more than a billion dollars of unclaimed property or cash. They gave back almost $240 million of that last year alone.

Auction and unclaimed funds go into a trust that supports public schools.  If you want to know if you have any money or valuables floating around out there, go to www.fltreasurehunt.org and search your name.

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Charlotte’s Web Proposed Rule Still Raising Questions

July 30th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida regulators hold their second rule making hearing for growing and distributing Charlotte’s web marijuana on Friday. The low THC marijuana is supposed to be available early next year, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us,  the latest proposal appears to restrict distribution, which could create challenges, legally and for patients.

A day long hearing earlier this month to set rules for growing and distributing low THC marijuana know as Charlotte’s web drew a standing room crowd full of questions and concerns. “It seems a little irrational” said one speaker of the proposed rule.

Now the Department of Health has published a second draft proposal. The second effort is still raising eyebrows among interested growers. “I think they’ve made some strides, positive strides” says grower advocate Jeff Sharkey.

The new plan continues to divide the state into five regions of different sizes. North Florida has two regions totaling 4 million people, but central Florida would have only one region, and one grower, for 8 million residents. Sharkey says that could make obtaining the substance difficult for patients. “Having one dispensary in central Florida for 8 million people is very hard order, particularly when you are trying to get this pharmaceutical to patients who need it quickly.”

The plan also sticks with a lottery to pick 5 out of 50 people who could qualify to grow. The hope is that lottery will keep those who don’t get picked from suing.

Taylor Biehl says the lottery leaves to much to chance without considering the merits of each proposal. He also says Amendment two’s likely passage in November will be a game changer. “I certainly think that in anticipation of amendment two passing in November, that things will come to a standstill. There will be a lot of protests and litigation.”

The second rule making hearing is set for Friday. Licenses must be awarded by the first of the year.

To qualify for a license to grow medical marijuana in Florida, ,a nursery must have been in continuous operation for at least 30 years and be at least 25% owned by a Floridian.

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Least Popular Wins?

July 30th, 2014 by Matt Galka

Florida’s Gubernatorial race will be one of the most watched in the country. As Matt Galka tells us, the two likely candidates aren’t exactly winning popularity contests.

With less than 100 days to go before Florida’s Gubernatorial election, it’s looking like the likely frontrunners could use a friend.

“Voters don’t like either of the major candidates,” said Quinnipiac Pollster Peter Brown.

45% of voters surveyed in the most recent Quinnipiac poll give Governor Rick Scott a negative approval rating.  42% of voters have an unfavorable view of likely Democratic foe Charlie Crist.  Both have approval ratings of just 40%.

If these numbers hold, the pair could become the least liked pair of candidates in governor’s race in the past 10 years, according to data website fivethirtyeight.com.

But FloridaState political science professor Charles Barrilleuax says that the numbers do little more than make politicians feel bad.

“People recognize it and it may give them a real sense about the candidates but the date suggests it doesn’t seem to effect their voting very much, or doesn’t effect their voting in a statistically significant way, and it doesn’t effect turnout,” said Barrilleaux.

Spending indicates that both candidates care about the numbers. The GOP has spent more than $16 million on ads, with Democrats spending around $3 million.

And with plenty of time left to sling mud, expect the spending to go up…and the popularity to go down.

Registered voters are used for Quinnipiac Polls which doesn’t mean everyone surveyed will turn out to vote.  Experts say that because there is no presidential election and it’s tougher to get people to cast ballots, voter turnout could end up favoring Republicans.

 

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Docs vs. Glocks

July 29th, 2014 by Matt Galka

A federal appeals court has ruled that a law restricting doctors from talking about gun ownership with their patients is constitutional. As Matt Galka tells us, medical professionals are saying this is a violation of rights – and harmful to a patient’s health.

‘Docs vs. Glocks’ was coined after a 2011 law passed banning doctors from talking with patients about gun ownership.  The NRA heavily backed the proposal.

“When you take your children to a doctor, it’s because they’re sick or they need medical care. You don’t take your child to a doctor to have the doctor express his or her political views about guns,” said NRA spokeswoman Marion Hammer.

A lower court judge found the law unconstitutional in 2012.  Now, a federal appeals court ruled the other way. Healthcare professionals say the number of gun related accidents is reason enough to have a conversation with their patients.

Accidental shooting deaths killed at least 17 kids last year in Florida.  Dr. Louis St. Petery says it should be no different than talking to a parent about car seats for safety.

“Prevention is the name of the game, so, for prevention of diseases there are immunizations which have done a terrific job, but for children, now the biggest killers are accidents,” said Dr. St. Petery.

Pro-gun groups say the law protects patient’s privacy. Physicians don’t need to know what they own.

“They’re not firearms instructors, they’re not safety instructors, they’re trained in medicine. That’s why we go see them,” said Hammer.

Florida’s American Civil Liberties Union bashed the appeals court decision.

“These conversations are needed, and we can’t allow the legislature to block these conversations just because it’s a conversation about guns,” said Howard Simon, ACLU Florida’s Executive Director.

The ban on the law will be kept in place until the entire appeals process has been completed.

The physician’s and gun control groups involved in the lawsuit have said they will appeal the federal court’s decision. The ruling does allow doctor’s to give patients pamphlets or brochures on safety.

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Floridians High on Medical Marijuana

July 28th, 2014 by Matt Galka

Floridian’s support of medical marijuana is at an all time high according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.  As Matt Galka tells us, the numbers suggest November’s ballot initiative to legalize pot for patients will pass overwhelmingly.

A burning question this November – will Floridians legalize the use of medical marijuana.  If you believe in QuinnipiacUniversity poll numbers, then that answer is ‘yes.’

“Old, young, male, female, black, white, 18 or 65 year-olds. There’s very strong support,” said Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown.

The Q poll showed that 88% of the 1251 voters surveyed supported medical marijuana, including 83% percent of Floridians over 65, and a sky high 95% percent of voters 18-29.

The survey didn’t specifically ask about November’s ballot initiative because it wanted to keep the questions the same from each state polled.

Florida Smart Justice Alliance president Barney Bishop is part of the Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot Coalition. He says the survey questions and the issue in November are totally different.

“Quinnipiac stupidly keeps asking the wrong question, you don’t ask the question ‘are you in favor of medical marijuana because that’s not the question that’s going to be on the ballot,” said Bishop.

The group says the amendment will put a pot shop on every corner, for everyone, and not just the seriously ill.

“This is a failed constitutional that is really just a shill, a thin facade for legalizing marijuana, and the vast majority of people in Florida are opposed to the legalization of marijuana,” said Bishop.

60% of balloters would need to vote yes for the amendment to pass.

There’s still a large gap in support over recreational marijuana use. Overall, 55 % of voters surveyed supported it, but much of the support came from the 18 to 29 year old crowd.  Voters over 65 opposed legal recreational pot.

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Do the Sales Tax Holidays Work?

July 25th, 2014 by Matt Galka

Another sales tax holiday hits Florida next week, and don’t tell the kids because it’s for back to school supplies. Matt Galka tries to find out if the sales tax breaks really work.

The legislature and Governor promised to save Floridians 500 million dollars this year. Part of it is through sales tax holidays

“House bill 5601, which does a lot of things, including putting 121 million dollars back in Florida family’s pockets,” said Gov. Rick Scott (R-Florida) in May.

The first sales tax holiday was for hurricane supplies in the first week of June.  Florida’s revenue estimating conference says shoppers saved about $2.7 million in sales tax this year. But supply store manager Tyler Gouldbourn didn’t notice.

“Despite the tax break I did not see a large increase in business related to generator sales or really even inquiries related to generator sales,” said Gouldbourn, the manager of All Pro Equipment in Tallahassee.

The Florida Retail Federation says that the next sales tax holiday is where they expect the most bang for the buck.

A back to school break starts August 1st.  Customers will be free of Florida’s six percent sales tax on clothing, footwear, and accessories that cost less than $100 dollars.

“The legislature estimates that the tax holiday alone will save Floridians about 40 million dollars statewide this year. It could easily be much higher when you add on the sales and markdowns,” said John Fleming with the Federation.

The FRF says an economics study from four years ago provides the answer as to whether the holidays work. It compared the tax free shopping from 2010 to 2009 – when there was no sales tax holiday.

“What we saw was that the sales did go up for the entire month in the year that we had the tax holiday, much more than they would have been we think without the tax holiday,” said Fleming.

The study also showed that the state made about 115 million dollars more that year in tax revenue during the three day tax free period. Meaning shoppers were more inclined to buy items that weren’t tax free.

The school supply sales tax holiday runs from August 1st through the 3rd.  In September, Floridians will have the chance to buy energy efficient appliances tax free for a three day period.

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Gay Couples ask Attorney General to let them be Married

July 24th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

A half dozen couples who were married in other states, or who want to be married in Florida, are asking Attorney General Pam Bondi to drop her appeal of last weeks court ruling that found the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

One week to the day since a judge ruled Florida’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, A half dozen couples delivered seven thousand petitions to the Attorney General. They want her to drop her appeal of the decision.

“How many of you want to get married to each other?” we asked. Wo Wo, Everybody. Some of us are.” How many are people are legally married in other states?” as hands from most went up in the air. Nancy Brown says marriage in Florida would be special.

“We live here. We’ve been here our entire lives, we want to get married with our friends and family.”

Several of the couples have been married 30 years or longer. “And we’ve been together 40 years” responded one woman.

Still they want their union recognized by their home state. Sheila Ortiz Taylor says not being legally married is sending the wrong message to her kids and grandkids. “We want to be recognized as citizens of Florida.”

“It’s very simple. It’s not complicated at all” says partner Joy Lyn Lewis.

As the group posed for pictures, the language of the state Constitution over their shoulders guaranteed equal civil and political rights to all. Robin Gray says the words should have meaning.“Well, they shouldn’t be hollow words. Equal rights should be afforded to all people who choose to get married.”

The Attorney General has said in court filings that voters had the right to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and she says they have the right to change it in the future if they want.

And Chris and Sean Cooey believe that  change is inevitable. “And we shouldn’t have to be tied down by legal loopholes, or an appeal from the Attorney General for us to be able to start a family” says Sean of their five year partnership.

The Protection of Marriage Act was approved by 4.8 million voters in 2008.

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Unless the Protection of Marriage Act in the Constitution is ruled unconstitutional under Federal law, changing it would require 60 percent of the electorate.

 

 

 

 

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Stop the Vote

July 24th, 2014 by Matt Galka

Illegally drawn congressional maps could cause a delay in some Florida elections. As Matt Galka tells us, it’s in the judges hands now.

A successful lawsuit against the Florida legislature found that the Republican Party illegally drew maps to benefit itself. So now what? The League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs say the election needs to be delayed.

“We have a map that has been found to be unconstitutional, it’s not just two districts, if you read the judge’s decision the entire map has been found to be unconstitutional, in effect there is no map right now, and Florida voters deserve to have map put in place,” said the group’s attorney, John Devaney.

Attorneys proposed postponing the congressional primary that is scheduled for August 26th back to mid or late September.  But lawyers for the legislature say that’s impossible.

“To now change districts would create chaos in the election process,” said Attorney Raoul Cantero.

Lawyers also suggested that circuit court judge Terry Lewis redraw the maps. They don’t want lawmakers to get another shot because they already drew them illegally.

With thousands of absentee ballots already out, Florida’s Supervisors of Elections could be put in a tough spot.

“We mailed out our 15,000 absentee ballots to our voters three days, it’s going to be difficult doing a recall on that. Do we print out all the ballots again? It causes confusion,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho.

Proceeding with elections as planned and holding a special congressional election was an option thrown around. Either way, the League’s attorney scoffed at the idea that nothing can be done this year.

“Go hire some more coders, lets work together to make sure voters do have a map,” said Devaney.

The judge says he’s extremely skeptical about bout changing the districts before the elections happen. A ruling is expected next week. Attorneys for the legislature said they would most likely appeal a decision that calls for the maps to be redrawn before the elections.

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