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Dana Young’s voting record blasted by her SD 18 opponents in debate

Debating for the first time in the state Senate District 18 race, South Tampa Republican Dana Young had her voting record pummeled by her three more-liberal male opponents at the Reeves Theatre on the University of Tampa campus Wednesday.

Young has maintained a fairly conservative record in her six years representing House District 60, a record her Democratic first-time opponent, Bob Buseing, has said is out of the mainstream of the voters in SD 18 which, like HD 60, encompasses South Tampa and much of western Hillsborough County.

Young has moved up in House leadership during her tenure, and is currently majority leader. She’s also raised more than a combined $2.3 million in the race, between her own campaign and her political committee, “Friends of Dana Young.” With just six days before the voting stops, her appearance on Wednesday was the first time she has met her opponents for a debate. And they were ready to attack her from the get-go.

“Dana Young wants to hide her record as a career politician,” said independent candidate Joe Redner in kicking off the forum, indicating what was in store for her and the audience for the next hour-plus. “She wants to hide that she takes millions of dollars from every special interest pulling the strings.”

Buesing followed suit, offering an aggressive take on Young’s stance on virtually every issue raised by the UT students in the audience. Seconds into his opening statement, he announced he was opposed to fracking, and immediately criticized Young for voting for the measure in this past session.

Young’s record on fracking has been seized upon by her opponents and environmental groups this election cycle. She has insisted that her support for Florida HB 191 the past winter was NOT a pro-fracking vote, a stance she maintained throughout the debate.

Critics have claimed she voted against allowing local governments have their autonomy on whether they want to ban fracking, but Young said she believed a statewide ban was the only legitimate way to handle the issue, because “our aquifer does not know county lines.”

“I’m not worried about the counties that pass bans on fracking, I’m worried about the counties that don’t,” she said.

That answer failed to mollify Redner, who has placed television ads criticizing Young on the environment. He said her fracking vote was done in a “slick way that career politicians do,” his voice dripping with disdain. And both he and Buesing referred to a complaint made by environmental groups that while the bill would have required fracking companies to disclose to the state all chemicals they used, but if the formulas were considered trade secrets, they wouldn’t have been available to the public.

“It seems like we’re all trying to out-hate fracking [more] than the next guy,” Young countered, saying that the other candidates had not studied the bill.

On guns, Buesing said he opposed a bill that failed to advance in the Florida Senate last session that would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry their weapons on college campuses.

Young took the offensive when it was her turn, citing statistics that one out of four women in college will be the victim of sexual assault. “I support the right of myself and other women to stand up and protect ourselves against men who would seek to do us harm.”

Buesing responded by saying the college campus which Young’s daughter attends, Clemson, does not allow guns on campus. “If she thought the only safe place was a place where there are guns on campus, why is she sending her daughter to Clemson University?”

Sheldon Upthegrove, the fourth candidate in the race, brought his perspective as a veteran of the Afghanistan conflict to the discussion. He said he supported concealed guns on college campuses, but only after a citizen passed a marksmanship test. But he disagreed with Young regarding feeling safe by carrying a gun, saying self-defense classes should be considered first before using a firearm.

“It’s insanity. Guns kill,” snarled Redner when it was his turn. He said citizens should be able to maintain firearms at home, but not out on the streets.

On the issue of medical marijuana, all four candidates said they support Amendment 2 on next week’s ballot that would legalize the substance for those with certain treatable diseases, and two of them, Redner and Upthegrove, support outright legalization. Redner again talked poignantly of how the herb helped him when he was receiving from Stage 4 lung cancer, and Young said her husband was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and had to contend with chemotherapy and radiation,  but did not use pot to alleviate his pain. “I believe anyone in that situation should be able to make a choice with what they wish to do with their body,” she said.

When asked about reforming Florida’s campaign finance laws, Buesing said, “I hate it,” saying that with outside groups, he has been outspent on a three-to-one ratio.

“There is too much money coming from dark money groups, like the ones that are supporting Mr. Buesing,” Young said, eliciting shrieks from the audience. Young called out the group Florida Strong, who this week alleged Young’s votes helped to pad her personal fortunes since her time in elected office. “They don’t have to disclose their donors, where my donors are all disclosed for the world to see.”

Those comments set off her opponents.

“So how much have you collected, Dana, $3 million from those upstanding donors?” asked Redner sarcastically, adding that, if elected, he’d work to pass the toughest campaign finance laws the state has ever seen.

“I find it funny that Dana says there’s too much money in politics, which in this race, she has more money than … at least a couple of us,” Upthegrove said, who said he thought there was too much money in politics.

In his concluding statement, Buesing read from various Tampa Bay Times editorials and opinion columns that have criticized Young and the third-party groups for some of their statements on Buesing’s background as an attorney with Trenam Kemker.

Afterwards, Young said the encounter was “interesting,” adding “that’s politics.”

Buesing said “I win this hands down, if it’s about the issues.”

Election Day is now just five days away.

medical marijuana

Backers release ‘intent’ statement for medical pot amendment

The team behind this year’s medical marijuana amendment has released an 11-page “intent” memo for voters to “understand the purposes” of the initiative.

“Voters should vote for an amendment fully understanding the intent of the drafters,” said the document, obtained by FloridaPolitics.com on Monday. “Fostering voter understanding is the central purpose of this memo, and we do so by expressing the intent of the individuals who drafted the language.”

The proposed change, which will be Amendment 2 on the November general election ballot, seeks to create a state constitutional right to medical cannabis in Florida. An internal poll recently showed 74 percent support; amendments need 60 percent approval to pass.

In 2014, a similar amendment fell two points short of adoption, despite many polls showing it would pass in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections. Law enforcement groups, many in the drug treatment community, and several legislative leaders continue to oppose the initiative.

Generally, the 2016 amendment will allow people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.

The memo was written by main amendment supporter and trial lawyer John Morgan, Dean Emeritus of the University of Florida law school Jon Mills, Drug Policy Alliance legal director Tamar Todd and Amendment 2 campaign director Ben Pollara.

The format of the memo is annotative, further explaining the proposed language, including “the limitations of this amendment.”

For instance, the analysis says the amendment “does not affect the current statutory prohibition on the operation of a vehicle, aircraft, train, or boat while under the influence of marijuana. The Legislature may pass additional laws regarding operating motor vehicles under the influence” of medicinal marijuana.

It “does not change federal law, under which marijuana is currently prohibited, but which the Justice Department has stated it does not intend to devote resources to prosecute marijuana use complying with state medical marijuana states in most cases.”

The amendment “does not require that the smoking of medical marijuana be allowed in public, …  in schools, corrections institutions, detention facilities, and places of employment.”

The memo says “no insurance provider or government agency will be required to pay for expenses related to the use of medical marijuana,” and a “doctor remains potentially liable for other ethics violations or malpractice committed while treating a qualifying patient.”

“This Amendment does not require or need any legislative implementation to take effect,” the document says. “However, the Legislature may pass laws that further the intent and purposes of this amendment, and the Legislature may pass laws that otherwise expand access to marijuana. The Legislature may not pass laws that would be contrary to the purpose or nullify this Amendment.”

 

Jimmy Buffett encourages Floridians to vote no on solar power amendment

Listen up, Parrotheads.

Jimmy Buffett released a video weighing in on two ballot amendments over the weekend. Buffett encouraged Floridians to vote no on Amendment 1, a solar power initiative, and yes on Amendment 2, the medical marijuana initiative.

“It’s obvious what’s going on,” said Buffett in the video. “Vote no on 1.”

Amendment 1 is backed by the state’s major electric companies, and outlines the rules for solar power in Florida. It would put existing law dealing with the rights of homeowners and businesses to own or lease solar equipment into the state constitution.

Opponents to the amendment have blasted the organization behind the amendment for using deceptive tactics. And last week, the Miami Herald reported that Sal Nuzzo, the policy director for the James Madison Institute, described the utility-backed amendment as “political jiu jitsu” to persuade voters to support restrictions on solar expansion.

Buffett threw his support behind the medical marijuana amendment, saying he used it for medicinal purposes after an accident in Australia. He told supporters it is a “great cure.”

“Medical marijuana — duh,” he said.

The proposal would allow people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

Both amendments need 60 percent of the vote to become law.

Business owners replace idealists in legal-pot movement

Business owners are replacing idealists in the pot-legalization movement as the nascent marijuana industry creates a broad base of new donors, many of them entrepreneurs willing to spend to change drug policy.

Unlike in the past, these supporters are not limited to a few wealthy people seeking change for personal reasons. They constitute a bigger coalition of business interests. And their support provides a significant financial advantage for pro-legalization campaigns.

“It’s mainly a social-justice movement. But undoubtedly there are business interests at work, which is new in this movement,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, a one-time pot-shop owner and now head of a Denver marijuana consulting firm.

The donors offer a wider foundation of support for the marijuana-related measures on the ballot next month in nine states. The campaigns are still largely funded by national advocacy organizations such as the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project and the New Approach PAC. But those groups are less reliant on billionaire activists.

On the other side, legalization opponents are attracting new support from businesses as diverse as trucking, pharmaceuticals and even gambling.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to pass ballot initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., followed in 2014. The result is a bigger pool of existing businesses that see expansion potential in more states authorizing use of the drug.

Take Darren Roberts of Boca Raton, Florida, co-founder of High There!, a social network for fans of pot. He donated $500 this year to a campaign to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Florida. Roberts is also encouraging his customers to donate to legalization campaigns in their own states.

“I would say it’s a combination of both the philanthropic social interest and the potential financial interest,” Roberts said.

All five states considering recreational marijuana — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — have seen more money flowing to groups that favor legalization than to those fighting it. The same is true in the four states considering starting or reinstating medical marijuana — Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota.

The donors who contribute to anti-legalization efforts have changed, too.

Some deep-pocket donors who drove opposition campaigns in years past are opening their pocketbooks again.

Casino owner Sheldon Adelson of Nevada, for example, gave some $5 million in 2014 to oppose a medical-pot measure in Florida. This year, as his home state considers recreational pot and Florida takes a second look at medical marijuana, Adelson has spent $2 million on opposition in Nevada and $1 million to oppose legalization in Massachusetts.

Other casinos are donating to Nevada opposition efforts, too, including MGM Resorts International and Atlantis Casino & Resort. Nevada gambling regulators have warned that marijuana violates federal law.

Some new opponents have also emerged, moving beyond the typical anti-pot base that includes law enforcement groups, alcohol companies and drug-treatment interests.

A pharmaceutical company that is working on a synthetic version of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, Insys Therapeutics Inc., has given at least $500,000 to oppose full marijuana legalization in its home state of Arizona.

The company did not return a message for comment on the donation. Company officials said in a statement last month that Insys opposes the Arizona ballot measure because marijuana’s safety has not been demonstrated through the federal regulatory process.

Other new names popping up in opposition disclosures include U-Haul, which gave $25,000 to oppose legalization in Arizona, and Julie Schauer, a Pennsylvania retiree who gave more than $1 million to a group opposing legalization. Neither returned messages seeking comment on their donations.

Smaller donors to opposition campaigns say they are hopelessly outgunned by the young pot industry, but are giving out of a sense of duty.

“Everyone’s talking about it like it’s a done deal, but I can’t sit by when I’ve seen firsthand the destruction that marijuana does to people,” said Howard Samuels, a drug-treatment therapist in Los Angeles who donated some $20,000 to oppose recreational legalization in California.

Samuels and other marijuana opponents insist that the pot industry cynically hopes to get more people addicted to the drug to line its own pockets, comparing pot providers to tobacco companies.

But marijuana-industry donors insist that they are simply carrying on a tradition started by the tie-dye wearing drug activists who pushed legalization long before there was any business model attached to it. They insist they would contribute financially even without any money-making potential.

“When a movement becomes an industry, of course the advocacy picture gets shuffled,” said Bob Hoban, a Denver attorney specializing in marijuana law and a $1,000 donor to the Marijuana Policy Project. “It shifts away from activists to more traditional business interests, because the skill sets don’t exactly transfer.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Karen Basha Egozi: Medical Marijuana Amendment 2 is about compassion

karen-basha-egoziFor 45 years, the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida has been on a mission to accelerate therapies that stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

With 400,000 Floridians living with epilepsy, we’ve had a lot of work to do.

One of our guiding principles is our commitment to physician-directed care. Simply, we believe that licensed medical doctors are best equipped to help their patients make important medical decisions, including treatments and medications. Doctors know their patients best.

But today, not all of Florida’s epilepsy patients have all treatment options available to them from their physicians. That’s why the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, along with the National Epilepsy Foundation, supports Amendment 2.

Some progress has been made in the past few years — for instance, Charlotte’s Web cannabis oil is now selectively available for some with severe epilepsy.

However, about one-third of people with epilepsy suffer from uncontrolled or intractable seizures, which can cause injury, disability — and even death. For those with drug-resistant epilepsy and uncontrolled seizures, medical marijuana may be an important, viable option not currently available under Florida law.

Under a state-regulated program, with high standards of patient care, and where a qualified treating physician believes the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the risks for their patient, Amendment 2 makes legal access possible.

This is a very important, difficult, and personal decision that should be made by a patient and family working with their qualified treating physician.

Seven out of 10 doctors and the American College of Physicians want medical marijuana available as one treatment option, and 24 states already allow its use.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment for epilepsy, a condition one in 26 Americans will develop at some point in their lifetime. And there is a reason why some Floridians living with the toughest forms of epilepsy are turning to medical marijuana, when other options have failed.

Ultimately, this is about compassion.

Floridians with severe forms of epilepsy deserve a choice.

They deserve care. And they deserve compassion.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida supports Amendment 2, because nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to potentially life-saving treatment under the direction of qualified physician care.

___

Karen Basha Egozi is CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

 

Carlos Trujillo just says ‘no’ to medical marijuana Amendment 2

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo said Thursday voters should say “no” to Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

Trujillo expressed concerns on enforcing the amendment and also warned edible marijuana could pose a danger to Florida children.

“Amendment 2 would be a disaster for Florida,” Trujillo said. “We already know from states like California that this pot candy is extremely deceptive to children and 2,000 pot shops are the last thing Florida needs. Worst of all, though, if Amendment 2 passes we won’t be able to fix it in the Legislature. It will be a permanent change. I urge all Floridians to vote no on Amendment 2!”

Christina Johnson, the spokeswoman for the VOTE NO on 2 campaign, thanked Trujillo for coming out in opposition to the amendment, and called the proposal “nothing more than a scam.”

Amendment 2, backed by People United for Medical Marijuana, has polled favorably with Florida voters since pollsters started tracking the 2016 attempt, with one recent survey showing 77 percent of voters in favor of the proposal.

In 2014, the medical marijuana fell two points short of the required 60 percent total for adoption, despite most major polls showing it would pass in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections.

As of Oct. 7, People United’s total fundraising had about $750,000 in the bank, while Drug Free Florida, the principal committee opposing the amendment, had about $380,000 on hand.

John Morgan, Vote No on 2’s Jessica Spencer dispute each other’s facts on medical marijuana

Face to face, medical marijuana champion John Morgan and Vote No on 2 Policy Director Jessica Spencer did not agree even on the basic facts behind each other’s arguments.

In a debate televised on WESH 2 TV in Orlando over Florida Amendment 2, the medical marijuana issue on November’s ballot, Morgan, the Orlando lawyer who chairs United For Care, and Spencer spent much of their time disputing each other’s most fundamental arguments as false.

The amendment would allow for doctors to recommend marijuana for patients suffering from debilitating illnesses ranging from neurological conditions to cancer to chronic pain to end-of-life diseases — if the doctors conclude marijuana could help control the symptoms or reduce pain. With that written, formal recommendation, patients could receive state ID cards that could allow them to obtain marijuana from licensed dispensaries regulated by the state.

The amendment needs 60 percent voter approval in the Nov. 8 election to pass. A poll WESH commissioned and reported during the debate showed it is riding with 69 percent support, with just 24 percent opposed and 7 percent undecided.

Spencer repeatedly insisted the amendment is “de facto legalization” of marijuana in Florida, while Morgan repeatedly insisted that nothing in the amendment would allow for recreational use.

“When your argument is a blatant falsehood, I don’t know how to debate that,” Morgan said.

Morgan repeatedly insisted medical marijuana works for patients suffering a broad range of conditions, while Spencer contended there was not enough science for the medical community to agree.

“He needs to be educated,” she said.

Spencer insisted medical marijuana could be turned into candy, sold near schools and made attractive to children, while Morgan declared the Florida Legislature and county and city governments have the power to prevent such abuses through regulation and would indeed exercise this authority.

Morgan insisted, at its worst, marijuana would certainly be a safer alternative to highly addictive opioid medications, while Spencer argued there is no consensus, as there is with opioids, regarding appropriate medical marijuana strengths, dosages, or times to take it.

Spencer said there are legitimate drug trials under way right now involving pill-form medical marijuana, but Morgan said the pills simply do not work.

Morgan said Spencer’s organization is backed by money from the pharmaceutical industry, which is trying to stop medical marijuana approvals nationwide. Spencer disputed that, saying Vote No On 2 has received no money from the pharmaceutical industry.

Morgan accused Spencer of fearmongering with false arguments against Amendment 2. He belittled her argument about it making marijuana easier to get by contending that right now it is easy to get on the street. The amendment, he argued, is for people who need legally available alternative medicine.

“It is not legalization of recreational marijuana,” Morgan said. “What this is, is a cure for really, really, really sick people.”

Spencer accused Morgan of being “someone who preys on people who don’t want to see other people suffer.”

“Do we want to believe the medical professionals and the medical community, and the law enforcement agencies, and the people that understand science, what we should do here, and how dangerous a constitutional amendment of this kind, which is in fact de facto legalization, or do we want to believe the predators, that prey on our compassion and our caring for individuals who suffer?” Spencer concluded.

Epilepsy Foundation endorses Florida’s medical marijuana initiative

The Florida Epilepsy Foundation has endorsed proposed Amendment 2, the medical marijuana initiative on Florida’s Nov. 8 ballot.

“Important medical decisions, such as treatments and medications, should be made by licensed physicians who know their patients best. That’s why the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, along with the national Epilepsy Foundation, supports Amendment 2,” Karen Basha Egozi, chief executive officer of the organization, said Tuesday in a written statement.

“Florida’s epilepsy patients should have available whatever treatment options their doctors recommend, including medical marijuana,” she said.

The proposal would allow cannabis use by people “with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician.”

It provides legal protections for caregivers helping them administer the drug, subject to oversight by the state Department of Health.

The proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution needs 60 percent of the vote. A similar measure in 2014 garnered 57 percent support, inspiring the Legislature to enact a framework to provide marijuana-based medication to treat a limited number of ailments.

The approved marijuana extract is low grade and cannot be smoked, and is not supposed to cause the euphoric effects typically associated with marijuana use. Critics warn Florida could be overrun with “pot shops” and that the issue doesn’t belong in the Constitution.

The national foundation wrote to the state branch on Sept. 12 in support of the amendment.

“In states where medical use of cannabis is legal as a treatment for epilepsy, a number of people living with epilepsy report beneficial effects, including a decrease in seizure activity, when using [cannabis],” President and Chief Executive Officer Philip M. Gattone wrote.

“If a patient and their health care professionals feel that the potential benefits of medical cannabis for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks, then families need to have that legal option,” Gattone wrote.

medical marijuana

Florida Dems give medical marijuana proponents fundraising boost

The committee backing the medical marijuana constitutional amendment raised more than $200,000 in the first week of October, helped in part by a donation from the Florida Democratic Party.

State records show People United for Medical Marijuana, the fundraising committee behind the medical marijuana amendment, raised $201,450 between Oct. 1 and Oct. 7. Records show the committee received $50,000 from the Florida Democratic Party on Oct. 7.

The donation marks the third time this year the state party donated to the campaign. The Florida Democratic Party gave $150,000 to the committee in September.

People United for Medical Marijuana also received $125,000 from Barbara Stiefel, a Coral Gables resident who has been a major contributor to the campaign. Records show Stiefel has given the fundraising committee more than $1.3 million since 2013.

The committee spent $33,004 in the one-week time period. That sum includes $21,600 for production and post-production costs, and $850 for advertising on WMBM-AM.meThe 2016 medical marijuana ballot initiative allows people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

The pro-medical marijuana group out-raised the committee backing the opposition efforts. State records show Drug Free Florida raised $6,895 during the one-week fundraising period. That sum includes $5,000 from Advance Business Associates.

Drug Free Florida spent $543,764 during the one-week fundraising period. That includes $543,650 to Jamestown Associates for media placement.

Drug Free Florida led a successful opposition campaign when a similar amendment was on the ballot in 2014. That ballot initiative received 58 percent support, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law.

Recent polling found 70 percent of likely Florida voters said they support the 2016 ballot initiative.

 

Florida police chiefs oppose medical marijuana amendment

Florida police chiefs want voters to vote “No on 2.”

The Florida Police Chiefs Association called on Florida voters to just say no to the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The statewide organization joins several other law enforcement organizations and officials, including the Florida Sheriff’s Association, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, in opposing the constitutional amendment.

“The Florida Police Chiefs Association strongly opposes any and all proposals that would legalize or decriminalize the sale, possession or use of marijuana,” said Amy Mercer, the executive director of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, in a statement. “Our top priority is the safety of our citizens and communities, and we believe this amendment may create more problems than it intends to alleviate.”

The 2016 amendment will allow people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

A similar amendment received 58 percent of the vote in 2014, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law.

The 2016 ballot initiative appears to have broad support among Floridians. A recent University of North Florida poll showed 77 percent of respondents said they were supporting the amendment.

The survey, conducted by the school’s Public Opinion Research Lab, found 45 percent of Floridians thought the marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes only; while 40 percent said they supported legalizing marijuana for recreational use. About 15 percent said they did not think marijuana should be legal.

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