Poll: Overwhelming Support For Medical Marijuana In Florida

July 29, 2014

Young and old Floridians overwhelmingly support letting sick patients get high for medical reasons, according to the latest poll on the issue, but getting voters to put medical marijuana into the state constitution is still not a guarantee.

A poll released Monday found that almost 90 percent of Florida voters want doctors to be able to order marijuana for patients. The poll by Quinnipiac University found widespread support for medical marijuana. Eighty-eight percent of Florida voters — including 83 percent of voters age 65 and older and 95 percent of those between 18 and 29 — approve of medical marijuana

“Even though a proposal to legalize medical marijuana, on the ballot this November, must meet a 60 percent threshold, these numbers make a strong bet the referendum is likely to pass,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a prepared statement accompanying the results.

But even supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment acknowledged that the poll results may overestimate Floridians’ support.

“The poll is just another demonstration that support for this is broad,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of United We Care, the group responsible for getting the proposal on the November ballot and working to get it passed.

The poll shows “that the vast majority of Floridians support the general concept of medical marijuana,” Pollara said.

Critics of the proposal, who’ve pumped at least $3 million into efforts to kill it and are prepared to spend more, blasted the semantics of the poll, as well as its findings. The proposal that will appear before voters in November, bankrolled by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, would allow doctors to decide whether patients who have debilitating medical conditions could receive medical marijuana. Doctors could not “prescribe” the substance, which would be distributed by state-licensed operators.

“This poll has been, and continues to be, a complete outlier in support of medical marijuana because it asks a question that won’t be on the ballot. Amendment 2 doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription,” said Sarah Bascom, spokeswoman for the “Vote No on 2″ campaign.

Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University, which frequently conducts polls in Florida and other states, found bipartisan support for legalizing medical marijuana, with an 80-19 percent split among Republicans — whose level of support was the lowest of any subgroup.

“Forget the stereotypes of stodgy old folks living out their golden years playing canasta and golf,” Brown said. “Almost nine in 10 Floridians favor legalizing medical marijuana and a small majority says adults should be able to possess small amounts of the drug for recreational purposes.”

The groundswell of support, mirrored in other polls, gave cause for cheer to backers of the proposed constitutional amendment. Experts estimate that both campaigns might spend up to $20 million on the issue.

“This poll clearly shows that the disingenuous arguments being put forth by organizations like Drug Free Florida and the Florida Sheriffs Association are not fooling Florida’s voters,” Pollara said. “Floridians understand this is an issue of compassion, and they are ready to put these kinds of health care decisions where they belong: in the hands of patients and their doctors, not politicians.”

Opponents are likely to rely on polling showing weakened support for the issue when linked to adolescents’ use of medical marijuana.

GOP legislative leaders and other Republicans who oppose legalization of medical marijuana signed off this spring on a form of marijuana that purportedly does not get users high but is believed to relieve seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy. The Department of Health is in the process of creating rules for the new law, which authorizes strains of marijuana that are low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. The law also allows patients who suffer from severe muscle spasms or cancer to be put on a “compassionate use registry” for the low-THC product as long as their doctors approve.

Under the law, doctors who order the substance for their patients must also file their treatment plans with the University of Florida pharmacy school. The university would also be eligible for $1 million in grants to study the efficacy of the low-THC treatment for children with severe forms of epilepsy.

But university officials say that participating in that research could cost them millions more in federal grants for other programs.

“Federal law prohibits possession, cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of marijuana. Violating federal law threatens the federal funding UF receives. As a state agency, UF is required to comply with the law. An outside counsel review of the laws reached the same conclusion,” University of Florida spokeswoman Janine Sikes said Monday.

The university may in the future find a researcher who could evaluate the effectiveness of the low-THC, Sikes said in an e-mail.

That research would only pertain to “outcomes measurement of patient care — not a drug or plant study,” Sikes said.

Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat who has gathered reams of research on the topic and was instrumental in passage of the low-THC legislation, had hoped that the University of Florida would be the conduit into the state for medical marijuana. She said she was disappointed in the university’s position but remained hopeful “that another entity that fits the criteria laid out in the statute will step up and assist the many patients who are desperately seeking this treatment.”

The Department of Health is holding a second rule-making workshop on the low-THC issue Friday in Tallahassee.

Edwards, like others, remains concerned that federal laws making marijuana illegal could pose problems getting the substance into the state to kick-start the low-THC program.

“Very quietly,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican lawyer who sponsored the legislation, said at the last rule-making workshop when asked how authorized growers will obtain seeds or plants. “But I know a few parents of children with intractable epilepsy who will be happy to go get it for you.”

But Edwards, also a lawyer, indicated that the state needs to come up with a better plan.

“I would never counsel a client to break the law and turn a blind eye,” Edwards. “That’s why I’m trying to find a solution that will work.

The poll released Monday also showed that Florida voters support allowing recreational marijuana by a 55 percent to 41 percent margin, but men and women are split on the issue, the poll found. Men support allowing Floridians “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use” by 61 percent to 36 percent while women are more skeptical, with 49 percent approving and 45 percent opposed. Young voters support the idea by a 72 percent to 25 percent margin, while voters 65 and older are opposed by a margin of 59 percent to 36 percent.

Seventy-one percent of voters also would support having a medical marijuana dispensary in the town where they live. The lowest level of support for having a dispensary in their neighborhoods comes from voters over age 65, with 57 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed.

“No ‘Not in My Backyard’ mentality here. By an almost 3-to-1 majority, Florida voters would allow a medical marijuana dispensary near where they live,” Brown said.

And the poll found that 44 percent of Florida voters say they have tried pot, including 51 percent of men, 39 percent of women and 48 percent of voters ages 18 to 29. Just 23 percent of voters over 65 say they’ve tried marijuana.

The poll was conducted from July 17 to July 21. It surveyed 1,251 registered Florida voters with a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

by Dara Kim,  The News Service of Florida

Parents Charged With Toddler’s Death

July 28, 2014

Two Escambia County parents have been charged with  homicide – negligent manslaughter in the death of their son, who went untreated for burns for about two weeks.

Pensacola Police said Christopher Redd and Jennifer Perry failed to seek medical treatment for their two-year old son after he was severely burned by boiling water. He suffered second and third degree burns over more than 40 percent of his body.

The parents told police that the child, Bryson, managed to spill boiling water that was on the stove about two weeks ago. They said Bryson acted like a typical two-year old and they did not seek medical treatment until until Sunday. In the meantime, they had searched burn treatments on the internet and had applied products purchased at local retailers, according to an arrest report. Additional, Perry had received prescription medication for a burn she suffered on her finger, and she said she applied the leftovers to the child.

He died Sunday after being taken to Baptist Hospital.

Both told police they delayed medical treatment because they would not know what story to tell the hospital about the burns, and they were concerned Bryson and their two other children would be removed from the home by the Department of Children and Families.

Parts Of Highway 99, Barrineau Park Road To Be Widened, Paved

July 28, 2014

Escambia County has entered into agreements with the Florida Department of Transportation to construct paved shoulders and resurface portions of Barrineau Park Road and Highway 99.

Due to the traffic crash rate on the two stretches of highway, both qualify for state funding through the FDOT Highway Safety Program. The FDOT has already completed the project design to install 2-foot wide pave shoulders on both sides of the roadways, resurface the travel lanes and make minor safety upgrades.

Construction on both projects will be administered by Escambia County, with FDOT reimbursing the county as costs are incurred.

The paved shoulders and other improvements will be made along Highway 99 from Barrineau Park Road to Highway 97A near Enon at a cost of up to $3.37 million; and along Barrineau Park Road from Jacks Branch Road to Highway 99 at a cost up to $1.62 million.

The next step in the project is to let contracts. There’s has been no start date for the work announced.

Maps show the areas to be improved on Highway 99 (left map) and Highway 196 (below). Click the maps to enlarge. NorthEscambia.com graphics.

Dollar Tree To Buy Family Dollar For $8.5 Billion

July 28, 2014

Dollar Tree,  the nation’s leading operator of discount variety stores selling everything for $1 or less, is purchasing Family Dollar.

The board of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the sale, which was announced early Monday morning.  The deal is valued at $74.50 per share, with Family Dollar shareholders to receive $59.60 in cash and $14.90 equivalent in Dollar Tree shares, or about $8.5 billion, when the transaction is closed by early 2015.

Both chains will continue to operate under the Dollar Tree and Family Dollar names.

Family Dollar operates stores throughout the North Escambia area, including Davisville, Century, Flomaton, Jay, Atmore, Cantonment and Pensacola. There’s no word if any of Family Dollar’s nationwide stores will close as a result of the merger.

Dollar Tree operates store in the North Escambia area in Pensacola and Atmore.

Pictured: The Family Dollar store in Century opened in August 2012. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.