Author Jerry Iannelli

the_white_strainHerbert Fuego

Florida’s United for Care campaign spent two full election cycles — 2014 and 2016 — drafting, fighting, and pushing Floridians to legalize medicinal cannabis for demonstrably sick people. Last year, 72 percent of Floridians voted to amend the state constitution to legalize medical weed for people with diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Now it’s up to the Florida Legislature to adopt medical marijuana rules.

Yesterday, Fort Myers Rep. Ray Rodrigues finally unveiled the first medical weed regulations — and they would ban people from smoking marijuana or using edibles. Patients would also be prohibited from vaporizing weed if they aren’t terminally ill.

high-art-boothPhoto Courtesy of High Art

Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the nation’s biggest art fairs, is upon us, which means all sorts of cool, interesting, weird, shocking, and downright breathtaking art will soon be splashed across town for all the world to see. If you can imagine it, it’s probably represented somewhere during Miami Art Week. And one booth at the art fair Spectrum Miami aims to set your imagination ablaze — with weed.

field-of-pot-nate-nicholsNate Nichols

If the latest crop of polls is correct, medical marijuana will be legally available to sick people in Florida tomorrow. As of late October, close to 80 percent of Floridians supported Amendment 2, which would legalize weed statewide for medical purposes, such as helping cancer or Alzheimer’s patients. Sixty percent of the electorate needs to approve the measure for it to pass.

But even assuming it passes, many Florida residents might need to travel pretty far to get their hands on medicinal cannabis. That’s because multiple cities are already gearing up to pass six-month “moratoriums” on medical marijuana — including Miami Beach.

surterra-therapeuticsSurterra Therapeutics

With the looming November 2 vote on Amendment 2, which would expand medical marijuana in Florida for specific diseases and conditions, one thing is clear: Weed is a polarizing topic. As New Times reported in August, according to one of the most respected marijuana-usage surveys in America, roughly half the residents in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties think smoking weed once a month is “harmful” and should be avoided. The other half rallied for legalization in our Facebook comments.

Although voters disagree, businesses are preparing for a yes vote on Amendment 2. Surterra Therapeutics, a hybrid company, works hand-in-hand with longtime Homestead nursery Alpha Foliage. (Disclosure: Reporter Stacey Russell is related to Surterra’s director of public relations.) Together with Alpha, Surterra cultivates, extracts, packages, markets, and dispenses medical marijuana. (Surterra cannot distribute medical cannabis without a nursery partner because of Florida law.) It’s one of just two dispensaries authorized by the state. Surterra is based in Georgia, but because of the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida, the company has set up camp in Tampa and Tallahassee. New Times toured the Tallahassee cultivation center.
churchillsPhoto by Alexander Oliva

Police lights flashed outside Churchill’s Pub in Little Haiti, Miami this past weekend during the Vote Yes Marijuana Fest, but no one seemed to mind. The officers had been hired to work the event. There were no plans to rough up any of the participants of the festivities, which included a 2:30 a.m. blunt-rolling contest.

“The police understand,” organizer Oski Gonzalez said. “They don’t want to keep hassling people because of some marijuana. They want to be out looking for some real criminals.”

medical-marijuanaKatherine Hitt via Flickr Creative Commons

In May 2014, Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss placed a slightly controversial item on that month’s agenda. He wanted to investigate how the medical marijuana industry might affect agriculture in the county.

At the time, fellow Commissioner Javier Souto wasn’t thrilled.

“This is an item that’s causing a lot of arguments in our society. I think we have enough problems,” Souto said at the time. “It’s premature to jump into things like this.”

He was wrong, though. Just one month later, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure allowing patients with cancer or seizures to use low-THC marijuana. And earlier this year, the law was expanded to give people with terminal illnesses access to high-THC marijuana as well.

Now, with two months left until full-fledged medical marijuana is back on the ballot in Florida, the county has released the results of that study initiated by Moss in 2014. Considering the laws currently on the books, officials believe the total sales generated each year could be as high as $124 million in Miami-Dade.

publixAlexf, Wikimedia Commons

When Miami New Times sat down with Florida medical-marijuana advocate and political consultant Ben Pollara earlier this month, Pollara said he wasn’t concerned that Carol Jenkins Barnett, daughter of Publix supermarket-chain founder George Jenkins, had donated $800,000 to a group trying to keep medicinal weed illegal.

“I still think ‘shopping is a pleasure,'” Pollara said, referencing the supermarket chain’s famous slogan.

But it turns out tens of thousands of people don’t quite agree with one of the loudest medical-marijuana advocates in the state. As of Monday morning, more than 41,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding that Jenkins Barnett stop using the chain’s profits to “fund [her]political beliefs.”

marijuana_stock_photoPhoto by Katheirne Hitt/Flickr

Pot is everywhere in Miami. Its scent wafts from bus stops, floats through open windows, and cascades out from under lifeguard stands on the beach at night. Spend more than a week here and you will, at least once, wonder if the server delivering you overpriced cocktails is stoned out of his mind.

Which is why it’s so surprising that, according to one of the most respected marijuana-usage surveys in America, roughly half the residents in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties think smoking weed once a month is “harmful” and should be avoided. That’s the highest rate in the nation.

seed-to-saleShutterstock

On Sunday, the Florida Medical Association voted to oppose Amendment 2, Florida’s latest effort to legalize medical marijuana. The FMA, which represents more than 20,000 physicians in the state, also opposed a similar effort two years ago.

So why is the doctor’s group hell-bent against a treatment option that has been embraced elsewhere in the U.S.?  Well, after the vote at the group’s annual meeting in Orlando, CEO Tim Stapleton offered the following (factually dubious) reasoning.

“There is nothing ‘medical’ about this proposal, and the lack of scientific evidence that pot is helpful in treating medical conditions is far from inclusive,” he said, according to a press release sent out by Drug Free Florida, the billionaire-backed campaign to scare people from voting for medical marijuana.

But the FMA neglected to mention one key fact about its vote: Its Orlando conference, held this year in Walt Disney World, was sponsored by PhRMA, one of the pharmaceutical industry’s largest trade organizations. PhRMA has spent millions to defeat medical marijuana proposals across the country.

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