Scott Administration Wants More Restrictions On Marijuana Proposal

April 22, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott and his surgeon general are balking at a proposal headed to the House floor that would open the door for a strain of marijuana that doesn’t get users high but is believed to dramatically reduce seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy.

Instead, Scott wants a more limited approach that would put children with “intractable” epilepsy, as well as children and adults with other diseases, into clinical trials for the drug. The trials would require cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or drug companies.

A plan approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday includes language proposed by Scott that would create an “Office of Compassionate Use” within the Department of Health that would “enhance access to investigational new drugs for Florida patients through approved clinical treatment plans or studies.”

“Investigational new drug” studies are the first step in laboratory testing of drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong told the House committee Monday that he has concerns about other areas of the bill but that his approach is “patient-centered and provides access to medications of known content and dose” and could be operational within months.

But Armstrong raised questions about the measure’s “plant-focused system … without quality assurance for the precise chemical composition and protection from impurity.”

The strain of marijuana, which is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), would have “variable and unknown content,” Armstrong said.

“The safety is unknown and the time to establish such a (distribution system) structure is unknown, likely more than 18 months and subject to rule challenges,” he went on.”Your Department of Health is committed to helping children and their families managing refractory epilepsy safely. We support access to investigational new drugs with known composition and a regulated risk profile. We must be wary of unintended consequences and remember that first we must do no harm.”

Armstrong also pointed to a drug called Epidiolex, a synthetic form of marijuana high in CBD but with no THC. The University of California, San Francisco, started clinical trails on the drug, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, earlier this year.

Under Scott’s plan, the “Office of Compassionate Use” could create a network of state universities and medical centers and apply to the FDA or a drug manufacturer for a study. The House measure also includes $1 million for the clinical studies.

“We have concerns with the bill as it is, but have proposed language to ensure safeguards that support the compassionate use through investigational treatments and ensures those suffering get access to treatments in the fastest possible way,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

House sponsor Matt Gaetz said that the clinical trials preferred by Scott are a good addition to his bill but an inadequate substitute for allowing anyone whose physician deems they would benefit from the low-THC treatment to get it.

“The governor’s suggestions are good. We’ve taken those suggestions but we’re thinking a little bolder,” Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said Monday evening. “I would like to do that and have little kids who can’t get into a clinical trial still have their lives saved.”

Apart from the language proposed by Scott, the House proposal (HB 843) adopted Monday edged closer to the Senate’s approach (SB 1030) to the issue. Parents of children with intractable epilepsy, which does not respond to other treatments, believe a strain of the marijuana produced in Colorado and known as “Charlotte’s Web” is their best hope of reducing the hundreds of seizures, some of them fatal, affected children can experience each day.

Like the Senate plan (SB 1070), the House proposal now on its way to the floor would create a “vertical” distribution system where the same company must grow, produce and dispense the product.

The House measure would allow for four distribution centers spread out across the state. The Senate proposal would allow from one to four distribution centers.

The House and Senate bills would create a statewide “compassionate use” registry for anyone who receives the drug, allow doctors to order the low-THC marijuana and require doctors to submit treatment plans for patients to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy quarterly. The Senate version would limit use of the drug to individuals with seizure disorders. The House measure would also require any doctor who orders the medical marijuana to undergo eight hours of training provided by the Florida Medical Association, which supports the bill.

Many of the elements of the House bill could be used as a blueprint for how the state would handle medical marijuana if voters approve a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow doctors to order the drug for their patients.

Although the low-THC proposal has the support of many GOP lawmakers, including Senate President Don Gaetz, some Republicans remain unconvinced.

House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, was one of three “no’s” in the 15-3 vote Monday, objecting that the issue was “a little too edgy” for his approval.

“This is the push-off point. Are we starting an avalanche?” Baxley said. “I just don’t feel that we’re safe there as a policy yet.”

by Dara Kim, The News Service of Florida

Ernest Ward Middle Names April Students Of The Month

April 22, 2014

Ernest Ward Middle School has named Students of the Month for April. They (L-R) Savannah Spence, 6th grade; Conner Riley, 8th grade; and Shelby Sloan, 7th grade. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Lutz Hits For Cycle In Wahoos Historic 17-1 Win

April 22, 2014

Donald Lutz hit for the first cycle in Blue Wahoos franchise history on a night where the team set records for runs (17) and hits (21) in a 17-1 win over the Jacksonville Suns at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Blue Wahoos also snapped a five-game losing streak in the process.

The Wahoos jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. Yorman Rodriguez launched the first of three Wahoos homers on the night, a two-run shot in the first inning.  The game got carried away when Pensacola, already leading 6-1, plated five runs in the sixth inning to move in front 11-1. The Blue Wahoos went on to plate six more runs over the next two innings.

Besides Lutz, Wahoos starting pitcher Robert Stephenson (W, 2-1) also had a remarkable night with what he did on the mound and at the plate. Stephenson fanned seven while allowing just 1 R/ER over 5.0 innings, but he also went 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBI. He was one of three Wahoos to drive in three runs. The others were Rey Navarro (3-for-7, 2 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI) and Juan Duran (2-for-5, 2B, R, 3 RBI). Everybody in the starting lineup collected at least one hit, and seven Wahoos starters had multi-hit games.

Lutz finished the game 5-for-6 with two doubles, two RBI, four runs scored, a triple and a mammoth solo home run in the cycle. He waited until his final at bat for the triple. With nobody out and a runner at first, he drove a ball off the wall in right-center field, and it caromed away from the Suns centerfield Isaac Galloway, allowing Lutz to coast into third for the third cycle of his career (other cycles: 7/21/11 w/Dayton, 7/10/09 w/ GCL Reds). He later scored to set the team record for runs in a game. The previous record was 16 scored on August 2, 2013 in Birmingham. That same game the Wahoos set the previous hit record with 17.

Stephenson ended up earning the win, his second, with Suns starter Angel Sanchez (L, 0-4) taking the loss. Sanchez was charged with 5R/4ER over 3.1 innings. He allowed seven hits, two walks with three strikeouts.

The Blue Wahoos look to stay hot and even the series on Tuesday against the Suns. Pensacola will send RHP Jon Moscot (0-1, 2.20) to the mound against Suns LHP Justin Nicolino (1-2, 3.38). First pitch from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville is set for 6:05 p.m. CT.

by Tommy Thrall

Sunday Night Shooting Under Investigation; Friday Night Victim’s Name Released

April 21, 2014

Today, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a Sunday night shooting, just as they have released the name of a the victim in a Friday night incident.

At about 9:00 Sunday night, deputies responded to the 700 block of Smiley Avenue in reference to a shooting victim.  The black male victim was found on a porch with apparent gunshot wounds. He was transported to a local hospital. His name and condition have not been released.

About 10:30 Friday night, deputies responded to the area of Edgewater Drive and Chaseville Stree to assist Florida Highway Patrol after a vehicle crashed into a wooden fence and a male driver, 27 year old Daishawn Willis, was found in the driver’s seat bleeding from the head. He was transported to a local hospital where he later passed away. Further details were not released.

Anyone with information on either incident should contact Crime Stoppers at (850) 436-STOP.

FWC Makes Major Changes To Deer Hunting In Northwest Florida

April 21, 2014

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has passed changes that divide the state’s Hunting Zone D (from Pensacola to Tallahassee) into two deer management units (DMUs), each with a unique set of antler-point requirements and antlerless deer harvest days.

These changes take effect during the 2014-15 hunting season and are part of a larger, statewide project aimed at managing deer on a more local level and providing stakeholders with a greater say in deer management.

The FWC conducted a public outreach and input process in northwest Florida beginning in early 2013. Since then, the Commission has received substantial input and comments from hunters, farmers and the general public regarding how they would like to see deer managed in the newly proposed DMUs.

As a result of this outreach process, the FWC passed rules for both public and private lands in both of the DMUs in Zone D, with Interstate 10 being the dividing line between the two DMUs. South of I-10 will be called DMU-D1, and north of I-10 is DMU-D2.

Now bucks harvested south of I-10 in DMU-D1 must have antlers with at least 2 points (each point having to be at least 1 inch long) on one side and at least one antler 5 inches or more in length.

North of I-10 in DMU-D2, the minimum antler requirement is now 3 points (each point having to be at least 1 inch long) on one side and have at least one antler 5 inches or more in length, or have an antler with a main beam length of 10 inches or more.

The rule includes an exception for youth to the increased antler requirements in both DMUs whereby hunters 15 years old and younger may continue to harvest bucks that have at least one antler 5 inches or more in length.

The Commission’s action also changes the antlerless deer season (“doe days”) on private lands within Zone D. During antlerless deer season, does may be harvested as well as bucks with less than 5-inch antlers. But it is illegal to take spotted fawns.

In DMU-D1 (south of I-10), the antlerless season was reduced to four days consisting of two popular holiday weekends (the weekends after Thanksgiving and Christmas).

In DMU-D2 (north of I-10), antlerless deer season was lengthened to eight days distributed across four weekends (Saturday-Sunday after Thanksgiving, first weekend of muzzleloading gun season, third weekend of general gun season and the weekend after Christmas).

The purpose of modifying the antlerless deer season was to spread out the hunting opportunity, so that more hunters could participate without reducing deer populations. These changes will be monitored to measure any impacts they may have on deer harvest and hunter satisfaction within each DMU.

MADD At Odds Over DUI Proposal

April 21, 2014

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is objecting to an abstinence-based proposal that would let judges order twice-daily breath tests instead of ignition interlock devices for repeat DUI offenders. But the head of the National Sheriffs’ Association says the “24/7 Sobriety” model is a better way of keeping drunken drivers off the road for good.

MADD National Director Jan Withers on Friday asked Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to reject the plan, which was approved by a House committee last week and is known elsewhere as “24/7 Sobriety.”

“MADD believes that amendments allowing for twice a day testing or 24/7 sobriety programs are okay, but these programs should never replace the use of ignition interlock for a convicted drunk driver,” Withers wrote.

Instead, MADD wants Florida lawmakers to expand the use of the interlock devices, which keep vehicles from starting if a driver is drunk, to first-time offenders whose blood-alcohol content is above .08. Current state law requires the devices for second- and third-time offenders as well as for those with a blood-alcohol content of .15 or greater.

In a letter to Weatherford, Withers pointed out that 17,224 Florida residents were convicted in 2012 for driving with suspended licenses that were revoked because of previous DUIs, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“MADD believes Florida needs … a new approach to handle persons arrested for drunk driving as license suspension alone is no longer practical,” Withers wrote. But on Thursday, Sheriff Mike Leidholt of Hughes County, S.D., wrote that he is “wholeheartedly in support” of the proposal (HB 7005), approved last week by the Florida House Economic Affairs Committee. The proposal would allow judges to place drivers with more than one DUI into a 24/7 program instead of or in addition to requiring interlock devices.

Leidholt, who is also president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, helped implement one of the nation’s first 24/7 sobriety programs, now in use statewide in South Dakota and two other states.

“Of all the wonderful programs that sheriffs are initiating, I have not seen one that is as successful in reducing recidivism, managing corrections populations, and reducing alcohol related crashes as the 24/7 Sobriety Program,” Leidholt wrote.

Interlock devices are now in use by more than 10,000 Florida drivers, and the industry generates about $10 million a year.

by The News Service of Florida

Summer Dance Workshop Offered At Byrneville Community Center

April 21, 2014

A Summer Dance Workshop will be offered at the Byrneville Community Center June 9-13.

Classes will be offered as follows:

  • 8:30 – 9 am — Pre-ballet (ages 3-4)
  • 9:15 – 10:15 am — Ballet I (ages 5-7)
  • 10:30 – noon  — Ballet II and Jazz (ages 8-10) 0-3 years dance experience
  • 12:30 – 2 p.m. — Ballet III and Jazz (ages 9-teen) 4 or more years dance experience

Proper dancewear and dance shoes are required. An optional Summer Dance Workship t-shirt will be available for $15 at registration time. The registration deadline is June 2. Contact Heather Leonard’s Danceworks by email at or on Facebook.

Career Academies Recognized; EWMS Culinary Academy Takes Top Honor

April 21, 2014

The 2014 Career Academy Award winners from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were recently presented, including the Middle School Career Academy of the Year award to Ernest Ward Middle School’s Culinary Arts Academy and the High School Career Academy of the Year award to West Florida High School’s Agriscience Technology Academy.

Middle School Career Academy of the Year

  • Culinary Arts Academy, Ernest Ward Middle School (Kathy Ellis, Instructor)
  • Microsoft I.T. Academy, Woodlawn Beach Middle School (Jennifer Hensley, Instructor)

Middle School Career Academy Student of the Year

  • Elayza Agrabin,  Arts, AV & Communications Academy, Bellview Middle School
  • Jade Finch, Microsoft I.T. Academy, Hobbs Middle School

Middle School Career Academy Teacher of the Year

  • Theresa Simmons, Arts, AV & Communications Academy, Bellview Middle School
  • Randy Parazine, Microsoft I.T. Academy, Hobbs Middle School

High School Career Academy Student of the Year

  • Angel Aldahondo, Engineering Academy, Escambia High School
  • Dezmond Baldwin-Marlow, Sarah J. Ussary Law and Public Service Academy, Pensacola High School
  • Abigail Harrison,  Commercial Arts Academy, Jay High School
  • Olivia Moore, Agriculture Academy, Jay High School

High School Career Academy Teacher of the Year

  • Kathy Gilliland, New Media Academy, Pine Forest High School
  • Monica Bondurant, Communications & Graphic Arts Academy, Pace High School

High School Career Academy of the Year

  • Agriscience Technology Academy, West Florida High School (Paula Petsel, Instructor)
  • Digital Multimedia Academy,  Milton High School (Kim Smith, Instructor)

Career Academy Student Intern of the Year

  • Aliya Eggleton, Criminal Justice Academy, West Florida High School
  • Morgan Lundquist, Pharmacy Tech Academy, Locklin Technical Center

High School Career Academy Scholar of the Year

  • Jennifer St. John, Engineering Academy, Escambia High School
  • Margaret Linscott,  Communications & Graphic Arts Academy, Pace High School

Pictured top and below: Ernest Ward Middle School Culinary Academy students hard at work. Pictured bottom: Enjoying EWMS  Culinary Academy creations. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Flomaton FFA String Band, Floriculture Teams Place At Districts

April 21, 2014

The Flomaton High School FFA recently competed at a district competition in Enterprise, AL.
The Flomaton FFA string band placed fourth; members were Nik Shivers, Stone Lehmann, Jose Escobedo, and Logan Hendricks. The Floriculture team placed third and will compete at the state competition. Members of the Flomaton Floriculture team were Haley White, Kristin Fillmore, Toni Simmons and Tiffany Hardy.

Pictured top: (L-R) String band members Nik Shivers, Stone Lehmann, Jose Escobedo, and Logan Hendricks; Floriculture team members Haley White, Kristin Fillmore, Toni Simmons and Tiffany Hardy. Submitted photo for, click to enlarge.

There names are
listed in the order they are standing

Photos: Our Easter Egg Find

April 21, 2014

While hiding Easter eggs of the plastic variety around Sunday, we made an Easter egg discovery. We found three mockingbird eggs in a nest nestled deep within the fronds of a sago palm. Hopefully, we’ll share baby bird pictures within a couple of weeks. photos, click to enlarge.

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