‘Pot Trucks’ Coming To Florida?

July 31, 2014

Florida pot dispensers could truck their product to patients, under a revised rule proposed by health regulators in advance of a workshop Friday about the state’s move to a limited type of medical marijuana.

The latest plan also would loosen restrictions on who could own the dispensing organizations. Nurseries with only one-quarter ownership of pot distribution businesses would be eligible for licenses, according to the draft rule released late Tuesday by the state Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use.

Despite numerous complaints expressed by nursery owners, lobbyists and others at a rule-making workshop earlier this month, health officials aren’t backing away from a lottery-based system to choose the recipients of five licenses, a competition drawing operators and investors from around the world.

The state has until Jan 1. to come up with the regulations regarding a strain of marijuana, authorized by the Republican-dominated Legislature and approved by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year, that purportedly does not get users high but can alleviate life-threatening seizures in children with severe epilepsy. Under the new law, patients who suffer from severe muscle spasms or cancer would also be eligible to get cannabis that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD, if their doctors order it.

The law restricts dispensary applicants — who would grow, process and distribute the low-THC product, usually a paste or oil — to nurseries that have done business in Florida for at least 30 years and grow 400,000 plants or more. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has identified at least 55 nurseries that currently meet the criteria.

Nursery owners have been bombarded by offers from investors and operators eager to cash in on the state’s newest regulated industry. Rumors are rampant about nurseries that are demanding millions from potential partners or growers who are being offered money to stay on the sidelines. Many of those interested in “Charlotte’s Web,” a low-THC strain named after a Colorado girl, are hoping to get started in the pot business now with an eye on a proposed constitutional amendment going before voters in November that would allow doctors to order “traditional” medical marijuana for certain patients.

In the meantime, eligible nursery operators are pairing up with lobbyists and lawyers as they wade into turf unfamiliar to even the most sophisticated regulatory experts.

The law allows one dispensing organization in each of five regions around the state. It also allows the dispensing organizations to have “an infrastructure reasonably located to dispense low-THC cannabis to registered patients statewide or regionally as determined by the department.”

At the rule-making workshop earlier this month, health officials heard that just five locations would be inadequate to meet patients’ needs.

The new draft rule would allow dispensing organizations to deliver 30-day supplies of the medical marijuana derivative directly to patients. Potential operators are divided on the transportation issue.

“An infrastructure cannot be a truck. An infrastructure is a place,” said Louis Rotundo, a lobbyist who represents the Florida Medical Cannabis Association, a coalition of growers, investors and others interested in the pot business.

The proposed rule may also mean that dispensing organizations can transport their product statewide.

Giving dispensers the ability to distribute statewide as the law permits is critical, said Ron Watson, a lobbyist who is consulting for a group of former pharmaceutical executives who want one of the five licenses.

“A regional distribution system has no checks and balances and will punish the patient through cost and availability. A patient should be able to choose the best medicine regardless of where it is grown,” said Watson, who also represents the Florida Medical Cannabis Association.

The proposed rule also would restrict dispensaries from opening near schools, day-care centers, churches and public parks, which Rotundo said is too far-reaching.

“Why should they not be allowed to open as if they were any other drug store in the jurisdiction? They’re dispensing a medicine and certainly a medicine much less dangerous than every pharmacy carries. I’m not following the logic of this,” said Rotundo, who also represents several municipalities.

The latest version of the rule also restricts nurseries to applying in only one region, meaning that at least five nurseries would be able to participate in the industry. Growers are forging partnerships in some areas of the state.

And the proposed rule also addressed some concerns that potential owners expressed earlier this month regarding a lack of clarity about a $5 million performance bond required by the law. Under the draft rule, a condition of the bond would be that the money would be used to destroy all of a dispensing organization’s pot if the dispensary loses its license or chooses not to renew it. The condition of the bond may help potential businesses secure funding from investors or even banks.

Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat who was instrumental in getting the low-THC measure passed, said she was pleased that health officials took some of the concerns expressed at the last meeting into consideration.

But Edwards said the “million dollar question” regarding pot’s future in Florida remains unresolved — how the original plants, seeds or tissue culture will get into the hands of growers. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

University of Florida scientists recently revealed the school would not participate in research — the law contains $1 million for the university to study the effect of low-THC, high-CBD marijuana on epileptic children — because it could lose millions of dollars in federal grants.

“I equate it to the ‘what came first the chicken or the egg’ question. In Florida, we are trying to figure out what comes first —the low-THC cannabis plant or the Charlotte’s Web medicine?” Edwards said.

Kerry Herndon, owner of Kerry’s Nursery in Apopka, blasted health officials for keeping the lottery provision in the proposed rule.

“It’s a disaster for the patient population. You’re making medicine for sick children. So it’s like anybody at random within the pool and not the most qualified? Really?” said Herndon, whose nursery is eligible for one of the licenses and who is interested in pursuing one.

Health officials are doing the best they can to meet “a very aggressive timeline” set by the Legislature, said Sen. Rob Bradley, one of the bill’s sponsors.

“We have told them that they need to produce a rule by Jan. 1, 2015, and they need to come up with a system whereby we can get this in the hands of the parents of the suffering children. I trust the department to come up with a practical way to get Charlotte’s Web in the hands of these suffering families,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said.

by Dara Kim, The News Service of Florida

Sex Offender Gets Life Without Parole

July 31, 2014

A man was sentenced Wednesday to spend the rest of his life in prison for a kidnapping and sexual attack.

Bret Randall May was sentenced by Judge Linda Nobles to life without parole for one count of kidnapping and two concurrent life sentences without  parole for two counts of sexual battery.

The charges stemmed from allegations that in the early morning hours of August 25, 2013, May forced an intoxicated woman into his car, transported her to a secluded area of Pensacola Beach and sexually battered her. Witnesses notified law enforcement who located the defendant’s vehicle and witnessed the attack.

May is a registered sexual predator having been convicted previously of three sexually related offenses in Alabama. In one of the Alabama cases, May’s victim was a nine year old female.

Wahoos Win In Extra Innings

July 31, 2014

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (15-25, 46-64) won the series finale in extra innings, 1-0, over the Mississippi Braves (22-18, 61-48). With the win in the 10th inning, the Wahoos snapped their four-game losing streak to the Braves.

The Wahoos finally broke the scoreless tie in the 10th inning. Devin Lohman walked to begin the inning and Ray Chang laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to second. After a wild pitch moved Lohman to third base, Yorman Rodriguez singled sharply up the middle to give Pensacola the lead. Rodriguez and Kyle Waldrop had multi-hit games for the Wahoos.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, Braves’ left fielder Mycal Jones began the inning with a walk. The Braves had successfully used the running game all series long, but for the second time in the game, Wahoos’ catcher Chris Berset threw out a runner at second. The Braves put together a couple of singles, but Shane Dyer was able to get Barrett Kleinknecht to ground into a double play to end the game.

RHP Michael Lorenzen had a terrific start for the Wahoos; he went 5.0 innings and allowed no runs on three hits. LHP Scott Maine, RHP Tim Adleman and RHP Carlos Gonzalez put together four straight scoreless innings before the game was sent to extra-innings. The trio struck out four batters and allowed just two hits. Gonzalez moved to 3-0 on the season with the win and Dyer earned his 12th save of the season.

RHP Mitch Atkins produced a fantastic start for the Braves. He went 7.0 innings and surrendered six hits while striking out four batters. RHP Jorge Reyes fell for the first time this season for the Braves.

Pensacola continues along their 10-game road trip as they head to Kodak, Tenn. RHP Ben Lively (0-5, 3.68) is set to start game one for the Wahoos. The Tennessee Smokies will send RHP Matt Loosen (4-5, 5.69) to the mound.

by Joey Truncale

Carl Hubbell Lee

July 31, 2014

Mr. Carl Hubbell Lee, age 77 of Century, passed away at his home on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

Mr. Lee was a native of Georgiana, AL, and a resident of Century for 30 years coming from McDavid. Mr. Lee was a veteran of the United States Navy and was retired from the Escambia County Florida School Board system. He was a member of Ray’s Chapel and was preceded in death by his parents, Early Ernest and Mittie Bass Lee, Sr.; brother, Early Lee, Jr; and son, Christopher Lee.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Shelia Seals Lee of Century; daughters, Elizabeth Lee of Brewton, Stephanie Lee of Flomaton, Tammy (Burt)Williams of Auburn, and Renee Hullet of Flomaton; brother, Bobby Joe Lee of Flomaton; sister, Catherine Lewis of North Carolina; six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren and special family friend, Lisa Nicholls.

Visitation will be held on Friday, August 1, 2014, at Flomaton Funeral Home Chapel beginning at 1 p.m. until service time at 2 p.m. with Rev. Nathan Brown officiating.

Interment will follow in Ray’s Chapel Cemetery in Bogia.

Pallbearers will be Zack Carter, Trey Weeks, Kenny Coleman, Woody Daw, Robby Lee and Cody Williams.

Flomaton Funeral Home is directing.

Lynn Driver

July 31, 2014

Lynn Driver, age 48, a native of Walnut Hill and resident of Loxley, passed away Monday, July 28, 2014. Mrs. Driver was a member of the Walnut Hill Baptist Church. She loved the beach, was an Auburn fan, coached little league baseball and was a licensed real estate agent. She loved her boys. She was preceded in death by her sister, Lisa Ann Littles.

She is survived by her husband, Stephen Smith; children, Reid Carrillo, A J Sappenfield, J D Sappenfield, and Justice Smith all of Loxley; parents, Jimmy and Carol Ann Driver of Loxley; two sisters, Lana Elizabeth Pulido of Loxley and Dr. Lucinda Lea Parmer of Cincinnati, OH; and brother, Lloyd Driver of Dania Beach, FL.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, August 2, 2014, at 11 a.m. at the Walnut Hill Baptist Church. The family will begin receiving friends at 10:30 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Walnut Hill Baptist Church Building Fund, 5741 Arthur Brown Rd, McDavid, FL 32568.

Arrangements are by Mack Funeral Home & Crematory in Robertsdale and Johnson-Quimby Funeral Home.

Abbie Gail Reader

July 31, 2014

Abbie Gail Reader, 92, of Pensacola, died on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. She was born on August 6, 1921, in Molino to the late Clyde and Elizabeth Hardy Harris. She lived in Panama City Beach for most of her life.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Grady Edward “Sonny” Reader, Jr.; parents; two sisters, Mildred Fillingim and Vonnie Morgan; two brothers, Bill and Luther Harris; and one stepson, Richard Reader.

Abbie is survived by two step-children, Cathy (John) Scott and William (Suzanne) Reader; sister-in-law, Wren (Donald) Johnson; and numerous nieces and nephews.

The family wishes to thank the staff at Grandview Assisted Living for all their care and love to Abbie.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, August 4, 2014, at Faith Chapel Funeral Home North with Pastor Pam Avery officiating.

Inurnment will be held at a later date in Panama City next to her late husband, Sonny, at Kent Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Reverend Thomas “Ed” Barnes

July 31, 2014

One of God’s finest, Rev. Thomas “Ed” Barnes, 82, of Pensacola, took his final steps to meet the Lord Jesus Christ on Monday evening.

Known as the “Boy Preacher” in his early teenage years traveling a five county area in NW Florida to spread the word, this Man of God went on to become a minister for the past 65 years. Starting with Reedy Assembly of God in Westville, FL, 1948-1951; Alford Assembly of God in Alford, FL, 1951-1953; he attended Southeastern Bible College, 1953-1955; Alford Assembly of God, 1955-1960; Bratt Assembly of God in Bratt, 1960-1970; Jordan Street Assembly of God in Pensacola, 1977 and Faith Temple Assembly of God in Pensacola, 1978-1988. But one of his proudest accomplishments was done later on in life when he kept spreading the word on a weekly basis to the elderly and shut-ins around the area in elderly facilities and homes who were not able to attend church and helped with the homeless. He preached his last sermon on May 4, 2014 at Brentwood Assembly of God.

He was a lifelong carpenter who also went on to retire from New York Life Insurance and Whitney Bank.

He is preceded in death by his wife of 46 years, Berniece Yon Barnes; parents, Troy and Janie Barnes; and his brothers, Lester and Azell Barnes.

Survivors include his sons, Richard Barnes (Ann), Randall Barnes (Deborah) and David Barnes (Vicki) all of Pensacola; his siblings, Gerethea Wise of Pensacola, Betty Bildner of Osseo, MI, and Frankie Barnes (Meryl) of Kynesville, FL; 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren; as well as in-laws and many nieces, nephews and his beloved pet and buddy, Charlie.

Visitation will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday, August 1, 2014, at Brentwood Assembly of God in Pensacola. Funeral services will be held 12 p.m. on Saturday, August 2, 2014, at Brentwood Assembly of God with Pastors Kenneth Martin, Ron Carnley and James Vickery officiating. Committal will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery Mausoleum.

Pallbearers will be Roger Barnes, Jason Barnes, Billy Latham, Robert Stuck, Darryl Bildner, Eric Wise, Mark Mills, Clay Mills, Steve Finch and James Kristie.

Honorary pallbearers will be Bill McLeod and the Brentwood Men’s Fellowship.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Brentwood Men’s Fellowship, Brentwood Breakfast Fund, 4901 N. Palafox St., Pensacola, FL 32505.

The family would like to thank special friend, Dr. Fleischhauer, the staff at Baptist Hospital 4-West, ICU Unit, PCU Unit and very special thanks to Laurie.

Tax Watch: North Escambia’s New $1.1 Million Bridge To (Almost) Nowhere

July 30, 2014

Traffic on Pineville Road in North Escambia  was transitioned to a temporary roadway and bridge Wednesday so crews could begin demolishing and replacing the existing bridge over Brushy Creek.

Don’t know where that is? You are not alone. The $1.1 million bridge project funded by the Florida Department of Transportation is on one of the most remote and least traveled dirt roads in Escambia County.

The existing bridge, which inspections have shown is in need of replacement, was constructed in 1967. It’s about two miles off  County Road 97A in Enon, a tiny quiet community where most residents take pride in living in the “middle of nowhere”.  The bridge, however, does not serve most Enon residents on their normal commute. It’s not a hurricane evacuation route, truck route, or any kind of route. It is (almost) a bridge to nowhere.

The southern end of Pineville Road is a sandy road that winds through literally thousands of acres of  timber, mostly owned by La Floresta Perdida, Inc.  It’s peaceful, quiet and scenic. The sound of Brushy Creek flowing around white sandy banks is broken only by the wind and birds. There are no power lines out here, and cell service is spotty at best on most carriers.

On the distant side of the bridge, there are maybe a half dozen homes where residents can leave home and either go south on Pineville Road and cross the bridge to reach Highway 97A or go north to Occie Phillips Road to reach 97A. The maximum detour length around the new bridge is 1.9 miles, per FDOT.

“I don’t see why they don’t just close the road instead of spending money on the bridge,” one resident said, not wanting us to use his name because he did not want to upset his few neighbors. “It’s not like it goes anywhere.”

The traffic count on Pineville Road, according to FDOT data, is 40 vehicles per day. That’s less than two vehicles per hour, on average, all day. Many of those, the resident acknowledged, are likely forestry workers, hunters or “kids going to the creek”.  But those 40 drivers per day won’t be inconvenienced by a detour on Pineville Road with the construction of a temporary steel bridge opening Wednesday that includes guardrails and paved approaches on the lonely dirt road.

However, when looking toward the future, FDOT estimates traffic on the bridge will increase from 40 vehicles per day to 44 per day by the year 2032.

On the other side of Escambia County, just outside Century, FDOT is replacing a bridge on Fannie Road. The average daily traffic count on that bridge, for comparison, was 1,104 vehicles per day. No temporary bridge was constructed; area residents must take a lengthy detour through Century and Flomaton, Ala., to reach their destination.

The $1,116,299.22 bid to replace the Pineville Road bridge over Brushy Creek and build the temporary detour bridge, was awarded to Murphree Bridge Corporation of Troy, AL. Other bids on the project were from Gulf Group, Inc. for $1.17 million, Scott Bridge Company for $1.48 million and Anderson Columbia for $1.60 million.

The project is expected to be complete sometime this fall.

Pictured: A temporary bridge is now in place next to the soon to be demolished and replaced Brushy Creek Bridge on Pineville Road. The area averages just 40 vehicles per day. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Great Weather Continues

July 30, 2014

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Wednesday Night Mostly clear, with a low around 60. North wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.
  • Thursday Mostly sunny, with a high near 91. Calm wind becoming northeast around 5 mph.
  • Thursday Night Mostly cloudy, with a low around 66. Calm wind.
  • Friday A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 93. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon.
  • Friday Night A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 71. Southwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.
  • Saturday A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the afternoon.
  • Saturday Night A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.
  • Sunday A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph in the morning.
  • Sunday Night A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm.
  • Monday A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 90.
  • Monday Night A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 69.
  • Tuesday A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91.
  • Tuesday Night A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 70.
  • Wednesday A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 90.

Many Retailers Counting On School Sales Tax Holiday For Bump In Sales

July 30, 2014

The Florida Retail Federation fully supports the upcoming three-day sales tax “holiday” on back-to-school items, with stores expecting to see a 30 percent increase in sales for the weekend.

However, the retail-industry lobbying group would have preferred the holiday period to be, as Gov. Rick Scott requested, at least a week longer. The three-day period begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

“Not everybody gets paid on the same schedule,” said John Fleming, a spokesman for the group. “The people who get paid at the end of the month, they’ll be fine. But there are people on that two-week cycle of paychecks. And we have always thought if you extend it to two weekends in a row you’d get more people to take advantage.”

Still, even at one weekend — the same length lawmakers set the previous four years — retailers should see an increase in shoppers from 2013 because of a couple of changes, according to state economists.

The first change raises the tax-free bar on clothing, bags and backpacks from a maximum of $75 per item to $100.

The second waives the collection of sales taxes on the first $750 of computers and related gear, regardless of the overall price of the electronics. Last year, when computer equipment was first introduced into the discount period, items had to cost less than $750.

“I do think it’s going to allow (electronics retailers) to sell more of their product line,” Fleming said. “This expands the ability for people to buy what they need.”

During the discount period, the collection of sales taxes will also be eliminated on certain school supplies costing less than $15 each, such as notebooks, pens and lunch boxes.

Florida economists have projected the “holiday” period will reduce state revenue by $32.3 million and local revenue to the tune of $7.3 million.

The projections are a jump from 2013, when a similar three-day “holiday” hit state revenue by $28.3 million and local government income by $6.4 million.

The projected increase this year is in part due to a higher demand for electronics.

The changes were included as part of the wide-ranging “patchwork of awesomeness” tax package approved by state lawmakers this spring. When combined with a rollback in vehicle-registration fees, the package gave Scott his election-year request for $500 million in cuts to taxes and fees.

The patchwork (HB 5601), so named by one of its chief architects House Finance & Tax Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, offered a wide array of tax cuts. They included two other sales-tax holidays: discounts from May 31 to June 8 on hurricane supplies and another tax-free period that will run from Sept. 19 to Sept. 21 on the first $1,500 of the sales price of new Energy Star and WaterSense products.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

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