Florida Medical Marijuana News

Canadian cannabis company pays $40 million for Florida pot grower

by: Palm Beach Post Updated: 

In the first big-dollar deal in Florida’s budding marijuana industry, a Canadian company paid $40 million for one of seven firms allowed to grow and sell cannabis in the state.

Liberty Health Sciences of Toronto this month bought Chestnut Hill Tree Farm of Alachua County, an operation that’s still very much in start-up mode.

Chestnut Hill has yet to open a retail outlet, and Liberty Health Sciences Chief Executive George Scorsis acknowledges that the company remains in a “pre-revenue” phase.

Chestnut Hill’s most valuable asset is its state license to produce medical marijuana.

However, state officials have said they’ll issue more licenses for cannabis cultivation as more patients join Florida’s medical marijuana registry, so even the license could prove a depreciating asset.

“It’s possible there could be some devaluation as the state issues more licenses, but we thought it was important for us to be one of the first entrants in the market,” Scorsis said Friday in an interview.

Pot proponents pushed medical marijuana as a safe treatment for cancer, chronic pain and other ailments.

The large sum paid for Chestnut Hill stoked concerns that the nascent industry quickly has shifted into a speculative mode.

“This is a completely immature company, and it’s going at a big dollar value,” said Ben Pollara, who led the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida.

Florida voters in November overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2, which makes marijuana available to people with cancer, epilepsy, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments.

They must get a doctor’s permission to buy cannabis.

The Canadian company’s arrival underscores just how hotly contested Florida’s marijuana market could become.

Most industry players expected half a million Floridians to sign up for the medical marijuana program, but Scorsis says the number could be higher.

“We always saw Florida as a tremendous opportunity because of the sheer population size,” Scorsis said.

Before he took over Liberty Health Sciences, Scorsis ran Mettrum Health Corp., a cannabis cultivator in Canada.

That company sold earlier this year for more than $400 million.

Liberty Health Services is an offshoot of another Canadian cannabis company, and Scorsis said its hallmark is growing marijuana cheaply compared to its competitors.

“We are the lowest-cost producer in Canada, and we also will be the lowest-cost producer in Florida,” Scorsis said. “We need to ensure that the product we produce is affordable.”

So Liberty Health Services could bring price competition to Florida, where prices have proven higher than in California and Colorado.

“Right now, there’s not much competition, and there aren’t many patients to compete for,” Pollara said.

As of July 12, there were 23,350 patients on the state’s cannabis rolls, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Now that Scorsis has taken over Chestnut Hill’s operations, he aims to begin opening dispensaries.

Scorsis said he’s negotiating three leases in South Florida and one in Central Florida.

He said the stores will focus on explaining the effects of cannabis to patients.

“Our retail outlets will be a combination of education centers and retail outlets,” Scorsis said.

While Liberty Health Services paid a hefty sum to get into Florida’s marijuana market, Scorsis stressed the company’s altruistic bent.

“Medical cannabis is there because patients need it,” he said, “and we need to work backward from there.”

cannabisjobs.us

Florida Senate starts shaping up medical marijuana plan

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More growers, access to treatment for snowbirds and greater flexibility in the relationship between patients and doctors are among the items likely to be included in a Senate proposal to carry out a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November to broadly legalize medical marijuana.

The Senate Health Policy Committee held a workshop Wednesday on the implementation of Amendment 2, which garnered the support of more than 71 percent of Florida voters, as lawmakers try to reach consensus on five pieces of legislation floating in the Senate.

The most controversial issues include how many licenses the state should award to marijuana growers, now limited to seven. Also, they include who should be deemed eligible to qualify for the treatment and whether to maintain the “vertical integration” system —- requiring medical marijuana organizations to grow, process and distribute cannabis products —- currently in use.

Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who was instrumental in the passage of medical marijuana laws in 2014 and 2016 and is the sponsor of the chamber’s highest-profile piece of cannabis-related legislation this year, was the only senator to appear before the committee.

The 2014 law allowed non-euphoric marijuana for limited types of patients, such as children with severe seizures. The 2016 legislation allowed full-strength marijuana for terminally ill patients. But the constitutional amendment will make cannabis available to a far-broader group of Floridians.

Under Bradley’s bill (SB 406), the state would have to issue five new licenses by the end of the year and could see another 20 marijuana operators —- nearly quadruple the seven current licensed “dispensing organizations” —- once the number of patients registered for the treatment reaches 500,000. The number of licenses would go up as the number of registered patients increases.

Bradley, a former prosecutor, acknowledged that his bill was likely too restrictive but cautioned against an open market for marijuana, which he pointed out is still an illegal drug under federal law.

“I hear a lot of talk about the current system as being a cartel,” he said. “This is not the selling of lawnmowers or office supplies. In those cases, there should be unlimited markets free from government oversight. This is very different. … Mom and pop stores don’t grow and sell medication that treat your wife’s cancer.”

But Bradley stressed the importance of having “a lot of different options from different providers” to keep prices down and guarantee patient access to the once-demonized substance that is now medicine in Florida.

Bradley frequently referred to a measure sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, that would require the state to issue 10 new licenses by October, and, like Bradley’s bill, includes a component requiring more licenses as the number of patients grows.

Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Dana Young, who referenced the other Senate measures throughout the meeting, told reporters her panel will propose a bill during the first week of April, at the earliest, giving time for the House and the Senate to hash out differences before the legislative session is scheduled to end on May 5.

The final product will likely be a hybrid of the Senate measures already filed, Young indicated.

“I do think that more licenses up front and different thresholds will be something almost certainly we’ll move to. The question is how many and what thresholds,” Young told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting.

Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for the political committee that successfully promoted Amendment 2, said Wednesday he felt “pretty good about” the Senate’s approach, in contrast with a House proposal that drew Pollara’s wrath.

House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, is steering a measure (HB 1397) that would, among other things, bar all but terminally ill medical marijuana patients from using vaporizers or edibles to consume cannabis products.

Young, R-Tampa, said she has not been in negotiations with her House counterparts on the issue.

“I have not had any conversations with Leader Rodrigues or any members of the Florida House on this legislation,” Young told reporters when asked. “Obviously, we have got to pass a bill through both houses, but beyond that, no.”

 

Medical Marijuana Bill Headed to Senate Floor

It’s officially “go” time for the Florida Legislature to finally reach an agreement over the future of medical marijuana in Florida.

On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Senate’s proposal to regulate medical cannabis, green-lighting the bill with only one “no” vote, from Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for approval.

SB 406, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, is the Senate’s idea of how Florida will regulate the state’s newly expanded medical marijuana industry after nearly 72 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment last fall.

Senators heard several amendments to Bradley’s bill on Tuesday. One of the amendments, pushed by Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach and former Sen. Frank Artiles, would add minority and veterans diversity plans for medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs).

Another amendment would require doctors to check the Compassionate Use Registry to verify patients weren’t “doctor shopping,” or seeing multiple doctors to get several prescriptions for medical marijuana.

Bradley’s bill, seen as the less restrictive measure moving through the state legislature, would grandfather in the seven current MMTCs and increase the cap on the number of marijuana dispensaries, expanding the number of businesses by five more when the state has 250,000 patients, 350,000 patients, 400,000 patients and then every 100,000 thereafter.

SB 406 would also allow eliminate the three-month waiting period and would also allow patients to increase their prescription cannabis supply from 45 to 90 days or even greater than 90 days with a doctor’s approval.

The legislation would create a coalition to research medical marijuana through Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Center and Research Institute, one of the top medical research centers in the state.

The goal of the coalition, according to the bill, is to conduct “rigorous scientific research,” and to “guide policy” for the adoption of a statewide policy on ordering and dosing practices for medical marijuana.

An education board, appointed by Dr. Alan List, the chief executive officer of the Moffitt Cancer Center, will adopt a plan for medical marijuana research in Florida. By Feb. 15 of each year, the board would need to report to the governor, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House on research projects, community outreach initiatives and future plans of the coalition in regards to medical marijuana.

Nonresidents would also be allowed to apply to receive medical marijuana in Florida as long as they are able to get medical marijuana in their home state and qualify in Florida.

Another amendment would require the Department of Health to have computer software system to track marijuana from “seed to sale,” following pot as it’s planted and distributed to patients statewide.

Bradley’s legislation has had a relatively easy time sailing through the Senate, but now the real negotiations begin to regulate Florida’s medical cannabis industry.

On Monday, a Florida House committee passed that chamber’s proposal to regulate medical pot and the bill has many provisions at odds with the Senate’s proposals.

Anti-drug groups like the Drug Free America Foundation have largely been behind crafting HB 1397 and say a more restrictive proposal is the correct way to prevent “abuse” of the state’s newest prescription drug.

The House measure, for example, includes the 90-day wait period for patients, bans edibles and vaping and also prohibits pregnant women from ingesting the drug even if their doctor suggest it.

In order to pass and become a law, both chambers will need to reach an agreement over what the state will and will not allow when it comes to medical pot.

Both bills are now ready to be heard by the House and Senate, but no hearing dates have been set.

 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

Canada marijuana company Aphria buying into Florida’s market

Voters take second shot at legalizing Florida medical marijuana

This year’s Amendment 2 would broaden access for diseases with symptoms other than seizures or spasms

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida voters have a second chance to approve a state amendment legalizing medical marijuana for ailments including glaucoma, AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder, after narrowly rejecting a similar measure two years ago.

The legislature in the meantime has allowed limited use of non-smoked, low-THC pot for patients with cancer or ailments that cause chronic seizures or severe spasms, and two dispensaries have opened in the state with home deliveries allowed statewide. Delays in fully implementing the law have added to arguments in favor of legalizing medical marijuana under the state constitution.

Florida would become the 26th state along with the District of Columbia to legalize the marijuana plant for medical use. Florida is one of 16 states where only part of the marijuana plant is used.

Opponents of the measure in 2014, which failed to garner the required 60 percent of the vote, had expressed concerns that Florida would be overrun with pot shops and that children wouldn’t be adequately protected from potential bad effects of the drug.

Proponents say loopholes have been closed this time, including requiring parental written consent for underage patients and that caregivers register with the state Health Department.

This year’s Amendment 2 would broaden access for diseases with symptoms other than seizures or spasms. The measure lists 10 illnesses: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. It also allows doctors to prescribe pot for any other similar kind of ailment.

The department will regulate how medical marijuana can be distributed along with mandating identification cards for caregivers and patients. Many rules and regulations — from how the marijuana is grown to regulations on how it can be transported for in-home delivery — already have been passed by the legislature under laws for limited use of marijuana. Those regulations also will apply to the constitutional amendment.

We are down to our last hours.

There are still undecided voters and misinformation being pushed by the No on 2 campaign.  No one knows what turnout will actually be like on Tuesday.

We can’t take any chances. We have to ask you until midnight.

Will you donate to help patients with cancer, MS, epilepsy, PTSD, ALS, disabling neuropathic pain and other debilitating conditions get the access they need?

Please donate (or donate again) ANY AMOUNT here before midnight.

Thank you for everything you’re doing to help pass Amendment 2.

– Ben Pollara

United for Care

Pd. Pol. Adv. paid for by People United for Medical Marijuana, 20 North Orange Avenue, Suite 1600, Orlando, FL 32801

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United for Care · Coral Gables, FL, United States
This email was sent to Cannabisjobs.us@gmail.com. To stop receiving emails, click here.
You can also keep up with United for Care on Twitter or Facebook.

This election is almost over.  We have just over a week to go.

We have five days to raise what we can and make our last advertising purchases.

We came up short last time. We will not lose again… if we have help.

Please click here to donate to our last days of advertising… which will be matched 5x.

Thank you,

– Raymer Maguire, IV
Deputy Campaign Manager

Yes on 2
Pd. Pol. Adv. paid for by People United for Medical Marijuana, 20 North Orange Avenue, Suite 1600, Orlando, FL 32801

We have two weeks to the end of this election. Early voting has started. Can you help (or help again)?

In reality, we only have 10 days left to fundraise… and we are making daily decisions as to where we target our advertising.

At any given moment, the No on 2 campaign can tap one of their big donors and try to overtake us.

THIS IS IT. We have a very clear opportunity to win—something we’ve been fighting towards for years.  We can’t let the patients down by faltering in the last stretch.

Every donation is matched five times over… PLEASE… help us close the deal by donating here.

Thank you for supporting this campaign.

– Ben Pollara
Yes on 2
Pd. Pol. Adv. paid for by People United for Medical Marijuana, 20 North Orange Avenue, Suite 1600, Orlando, FL 32801

Fantastic news: Despite millions of dollars spent against us, the latest poll of Amendment 2 shows us at 74%!

This poll confirms what other polls have shown all along–voters recognize it is time to do what legislature failed to do and pass a compassionate medical marijuana law letting doctors use their best judgement for their seriously debilitated patients.

Importantly, we are showing 13% higher support than we did at the exact same point in the 2014 campaign, 18 days before the election.

Still, we can’t let our guard down. We are still advertising and will continue to do so right until the end.  

As such, we must continue to fundraise to pay for these communications.  Please make a donation here now, and it will be matched 5-to-1.

Thank you.  Onward to victory!

– Ben Pollara
Yes on 2

Florida – Vote Yes on Amendment 2 on Nov 8th
In 3 weeks, the Amendment 2 campaign ends.

If things go well, we will secure the right of doctors to recommend what’s best for their seriously debilitated patients… and remove the risk of arrest for thousands of patients and caregivers.

In order for things to go well, though, we have to communicate right through to election day—particularly to those audiences who aren’t sure or whose support is tenuous.

With more candidates on the airwaves and online than ever, costs are high.  But the stakes are higher for the patients we’re fighting for.

If you donate here right now, Barbara Stiefel will match your donation 5 to 1.

We have to keep asking. We cannot risk a repeat of 2014.  We MUST fight right to the end.

Thank you for your support,

– Ben Pollara
Campaign Manager
Yes on 2
Pd. Pol. Adv. paid for by People United for Medical Marijuana, 20 North Orange Avenue, Suite 1600, Orlando, FL 32801

Florida: Medical Cannabis Bill Headed Back To Florida Senate

A medical cannabis bill is headed back to the floor of the Florida Senate after being approved in the rules committee Monday.

The bill (SB460) was debated on the Senate floor last week but was referred back to committee because of the number of late amendments sought.

When Senator Rob Bradley introduced the bill in October, he wanted to expand the Right to Try Act to allow terminally ill patients to use non smokable cannabis of all strengths and doses. However, the Republican from Fleming Island has added regulations to resolve issues that have come up since the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act signed by Governor Rick Scott two years ago.

Vote Yes On Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative ‘For Humanitarian Reasons’

Florida voters are going to see a medical marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot for the second election cycle in a row. The 2016 version is different than the 2014 version in a handful of ways. The 2014 initiative lost by just 2 percent. An improved initiative, lessons learned from the 2014 campaign, and a higher voter turnout due to a Presidential election will hopefully overcome that 2 percent. Florida residents want medical marijuana, and not the version previously passed by the Florida Legislature that doesn’t really help anyone. The Editorial Board at the Miami-Herald agrees. Per an excerpt from a recently published article by the media outlet:

But this is about sick people. Passage of the amendment means patients will go to a doctor, who can recommend they receive a medical marijuana card. The card will be issued by the Florida Department of Health, giving a patient the right to buy medical marijuana at dispensaries expected to spring up across the state.

Today, 23 states already permit medical cannabis use, and three more are poised to advance similar laws this year. Florida should join the group, primarily for the sake of an ailing population that wants it available.

Floridians have sent a signal they want medical marijuana. For humanitarian reasons, voters should approve the measure this time around.
I love the compassionate approach the outlet took. A lot of media outlets will tout the business side of a reform effort, if they even support it at all. At the end of the day the United for Care campaign is about compassion, and helping sick people get access to a medicine that is proven to be safe and effective. If you live in Florida, tell everyone that you know to vote for the initiative in November!

It’s official: Florida medical marijuana will be on November 2016 ballot

In 2014, the last time that Florida voted on medical marijuana, the measure fell just short of the 60 percent approval required for constitutional amendments

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A proposed constitutional amendment to allow medical use of marijuana will be back on the ballot in November and organizers said Wednesday that growing public support and a larger voter turnout in a presidential election year should help pass the measure that narrowly failed in 2014.

The group organizing a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot now has 692,981 certified voter signatures, nearly 10,000 more than it needed to put the proposed amendment on the ballot.

“We feel very good that 60 percent plus of Florida voters will finally approve a true medical marijuana law,” said Ben Pollara, who is organizing the effort for United for Care.

The state requires that constitutional amendments receive at least 60 percent approval from voters. In 2014, 57.6 percent of voters supported a medical marijuana initiative. Pollara said at the time that supporters hoped lawmakers would recognize that most Floridians wanted to legalize medical marijuana and pass a bill to approve it. This year’s measure will be called Amendment 2, the same as in 2014.

But the Legislature has been tepid on the issue. In 2014, lawmakers did approve the use of non-euphoric marijuana to treat seizures. But the product is still not available to those who need itbecause the state has had problems establishing regulations overseeing its production and distribution.

“We got nowhere, so here we are back on the ballot,” Pollara said. “Current law has helped no one.”

Personal injury lawyer John Morgan has spent more than $6 million between the 2014 and 2016 efforts to legalize medical marijuana. He says his brother, a quadriplegic who uses marijuana to control muscle spasms, is one of his inspirations behind the campaign.

In an email to supporters Wednesday night, Morgan said, “We’re back. We’re going to win for the patients. BELIEVE!!!”

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who opposed the 2014 ballot initiative, didn’t return a voicemail message seeking comment Wednesday.

Pollara noted that millions of dollars were spent opposing the 2014 initiative and it still received nearly 58 percent support. As more people approve of the idea of medical marijuana and with more voters expected to turn out this year, he said he’s confident it will pass despite any campaigns mounted against it.

“One thing that we learned is that we don’t have to respond to everything they say; we don’t have to match them dollar for dollar. We just have to get out the message that marijuana helps people who are sick and suffering,” he said.

Bid to legalize recreational marijuana will NOT make it on 2016 ballot in Florida

Regulate Florida, the group aiming to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in Florida in 2016 that would legalize recreational pot, is ending their campaign, admitting that they will not be able to get the more than 683,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot by next February.

That news was related to supporters on Wednesday day night via a conference call by Michael Minardi, the Jupiter-based attorney and campaign manager for Regulate Florida.

“The reality is showing us that we’re not going to get the million petitions or signatures verified by February 1,” Minardi said. “We had an uphill battle, honestly with getting a million signatures realistically from the end of August until December. We did believe with the movement and the momentum that we had that we could get this done, but unfortunately, we don’t think we’re going to at this point.”

The organizers of Regulate Florida were attempting to have Florida become the first state to go straight to approving legalizing marijuana, without first having passed a medical marijuana law.

The bid for medical marijuana in Florida received over 57 percent of the vote in 2014, shy of the 60 percent required for a citizen-based constitutional amendment from passage. United for Care, the same group led by Orlando attorney John Morgan that led the effort last year, is working hard on attempting the get the measure on the Florida November ballot in 2016.

Minardi said that he was optimistic about getting the measure to legalize recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2018. He said he had some “soft commitments” from donors for that campaign already, and said he hopes to sign contracts with those donors next year.  He said he’s also hoping to get a Supreme Court review of the ballot language by next summer.

Karen Goldstein with Regulate Florida (who also heads the Florida chapter of NORML), told supporters on the call that the Regulate Florida intends to make some “minor” changes with the ballot language, and thus implored volunteers to destroy any current, unsigned petitions.

Minardi said the group will be supportive of that effort, saying that its passage will help educate the people of Florida about the safety and efficiency of cannabis as a whole.

Goldstein also urged supporters who like to get out and petition to pick up some United for Care petitions to help get that initiative on the 2016 ballot. “We still need to get medical marijuana on the ballot in 2016. We still need to support, as we have all along, the United for Care effort.”

“I have great respect for Mike Minardi and Karen Goldstein and anyone who undertakes the herculean task of placing a constitutional amendment on the Florida ballot,” said Ben Pollara, director for United for Care. “I’m sorry their campaign didn’t end up the way they wanted it to. I hope this means they’ll return their full focus and energy to passing medical marijuana in 2016.”

“I would like to add our heartfelt thanks to all of you, ” said Goldstein to supporters on the call on Wednesday night. “We are going to come back stronger, and we’re going to get it done.”

2016 Medical Marijuana Petition Approved By Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court has put it’s stamp of approval on the 2016 version of the medial marijuana petition, paving the way towards it’s imminent placement on the ballot.

This leaves the final step prior to getting on the ballot:  to secure 683,149 validated petitions. As of this email, we have over 400,000 validated and only weeks left to collect and send in the remainder.

Please contribute anything you can to the petition drive here.  We still have 2 weeks of John Morgan’s 9 to 1 match, and we need to bring in this money BEFORE the New Year.

Additionally, Print, sign and mail in the NEW 2016 petition at http://www.unitedforcare.org/petition .  If you’re not sure if you’ve done this already, send it in again. It won’t be double counted.

There are only weeks left to get this done.  Please help today.

More details to come.

– Ben Pollara
Campaign Manager
United for Care

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