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High risk for Florida doctors who order medical marijuana

Regardless of how much discretion they get once new regulations shake out, Florida physicians will be the gatekeepers between patients and medical marijuana.

It’s a role that very few physicians have embraced.

According to the Health Department’s Office of Compassionate Use — the new three-person state agency tasked with administering Florida’s medical marijuana program — 494 Florida doctors are licensed to order medical marijuana as of Jan. 18.

As of Monday, 554 physicians and 127 osteopathic physicians have taken the Florida Medical Association’s continuing education course on Compassionate Medical Cannabis, according to the FMA.

If estimates on the size of the patient pool are correct, the state may need more qualified doctors.

The Office of Economic and Demographic Research estimates that Florida can expect about 450,000 medical marijuana patients per year under Amendment 2 expansion. That number could increase, depending on the qualifying conditions.

In Oregon, high demand for medical marijuana led to so-called prescription mills, with individual doctors making thousands of recommendations for patients each year. Statistics on Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Program show that 24 Oregon physicians were responsible for 75 percent of all medical marijuana prescriptions in 2016. The 24 physicians accounted for 51, 597 medical marijuana applications.

One doctor’s take

Despite the program’s growth, many doctors hesitate to add medical marijuana to their practices.

“I would have to think long and hard before I did this as a sideline if I were in a traditional medical practice,” Dr. Joseph Dorn, founder of Medical Marijuana Treatment Center of Florida, told Watchdog.

Dorn worked in hospice care before becoming medical director of Surterra Therapeutics, one of Florida’s seven licensed dispensaries. He estimates that he was one of the first few dozen doctors in Florida to get licensed back in 2015, when he left his medical director post.

“It was frustrating because we had good products and there were many patients who needed it, but they couldn’t find doctors who were doing it at the time,” Dorn said.

Given his experience both in palliative care and in the medical marijuana industry, it was an easy transition for Dorn, but he understands why others in the medical community are reluctant to jump on the medical marijuana train.

“One of the biggest obstacles, I think, [is] their fear, because it is federally illegal and most doctors still use their [Drug Enforcement Administration] licenses to order controlled substances on their regular patient populations,” he said.

He added that doctors might be concerned about putting their DEA licenses at risk, and they also are unsure of what changes at the federal level could mean for issuing recommendations.

“I think right now with the changing administration at the federal level, there’s a concern, because we don’t really know what the new attorney general is going to do. So people are moving a little more cautiously, and probably understandably so.”

Lawyers weigh in

Kate Bell, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, agrees.

“The requirement that a physician specify the quantity of medical marijuana that a patient may possess is a serious flaw that is not addressed in either the proposed regulations from the Department of Health or the bill proposed by Senator [Rob] Bradley,” Bell told Watchdog in an email.

Bell said another problem is that the proposed regulations would continue to require doctors to “order” medical cannabis, which is close to the same thing as “prescribing” cannabis — a prohibited act.

“While recommending medical marijuana is protected by the doctor’s First Amendment rights, to order a quantity of cannabis is not, because it would show a specific intent that the patient obtain cannabis under the controlling legal precedent (Conant v. Walters, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals),” Bell said. “Thus, current Florida rules put doctors at risk under federal law.”

Guidelines put forth by the Office of Compassionate Use call for doctors that “order” medical marijuana for their patients to submit information, including dosage information, to the state registry. They must also file a treatment plan with the University of Florida.

Matthew Ginder, senior counsel for the Florida branch of Greenspoon Marder’s Cannabis Law group, told Watchdog in an email that “the current law undoubtedly places burdens on physicians that do not exist in many other states.”

He added that the requirements for physicians under Amendment 2 were “less onerous,” and that hopefully the Legislature would address the semantics of recommending versus prescribing medical marijuana. As it stands, Ginder questioned if “ordering” a prescription would be protected under free speech precedent.

“In short, it is understandable why physicians are hesitant to register under the current medical marijuana program,” Ginder said.

Sunai Edwards, an attorney with the Tampa-based firm Gray-Robinson, says the lack of clarity in the rules should make doctors cautious about how to remain compliant with state law, federal concerns aside.

Edwards, whose husband is a physician licensed to order medical marijuana, added that she thought it would be interesting to see what input physicians would have in the rule-making process, whether they would seek more discretion or more dictates for the ordering process.

Better things to do

“I think what I would say is both,” said Dr. Stephen Mamus, medical director of the Cancer Center of Sarasota. Mamus said he would like to see a list of conditions for which physicians were allowed to order marijuana while also allowing discretion for doctors when patients fall outside of a narrow diagnosis.

He added that fears of federal repercussions — along with the $1,000 course fee — certainly discouraged more doctors from joining the registry. However, he felt that quibbling over the state’s legal language was ultimately irrelevant.

“It doesn’t matter what the state of Florida says, if they said nothing or they said everything, because ultimately it’s a federal issue,” Mamus said. “Even if you had the state of Florida do everything that every single doctor in the state of Florida wanted, that still does not protect you from the federal law.”

Mamus added that he was very conservative in choosing how he recommended medical marijuana and only ordered it for cancer patients with life expectancies of less than a year.

“I really can’t see that the federal government is going try to prosecute doctors who are trying to help patients dying from cancer. They’ve got better things to do with their time,” he said.

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Florida’s children live and die at the crowded corner of Dickens & Orwell, part 2

Naika Venant kept a journal and hoped one day to write a memoir. Instead, her life story will be told by the Miami Herald.

Eight of the paper’s most experienced reporters collaborated Tuesday to piece together the last hours of the last chapter of the 14-year-old foster child’s life.  But it was old news to the thousand people who watched in real time on Facebook as Naika hung herself by the neck until dead.

An all-star cast of usual suspects showed up to say all the usual things.

Department of Children & Families (DCF) Secretary Mike Carroll is “horrified and devastated.”  There will, of course, be a multidisciplinary investigation.  He’s committed to “helping the family heal.”

Carroll can take that up with the birth mother’s lawyer, who kicked off his client’s healing process with a shock and awe news conference.

Soon to be heard from is the dependency court judge who ordered that Naika be shielded from social media and provided with intensive counseling.  Sure to come is a Herald lawsuit to gain access to the facts of Naika’s life, which included being raped in foster care. That was half a lifetime ago, when she was 7 years old.

Yesterday, House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo wondered aloud: ” … how much appetite do we have to be disciplined financially? We’ve been led by Republicans for the last 20 years, and we spend like Democrats.”

Indeed. High on the list of stupid money Florida spends is the millions it takes to support its web of confidentiality laws written decades before parents decided it was OK for 14-year-olds to sleep with their smartphones. There’s a bipartisan consensus that it’s a good use of money to “protect the privacy” of children like Naika, as if their families, teachers, neighbors, grocery store clerks, and Facebook friends don’t know who they are, and why they’re “in care.”

Today and every day, there are Naikas and Nubias acting out, crying out, waiving their privacy “rights” and begging for help. There are professionals ready, willing and capable of providing meaningful help, court-ordered or otherwise.

What we lack is the willingness to take money out of the Department of Hollow Apologies and Reshuffling Deck Chairs and put it into the hands of professionals who can, for example, keep 7-year-olds away from rapists.

When Naika’s story is finally and fully told, we will see, yet again, that the only thing Florida’s privacy laws protect is a fiscally stupid and morally bankrupt status quo.

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McDonald’s to give away 10,000 bottles of special sauce

To get you to come into McDonald’s and buy new versions of its Big Mac, the chain is giving away 10,000 bottles of its trademark special sauce for people to use at home.

The move is to celebrate the introduction of the Mac Jr. and the Grand Mac, two different-sized variations of the classic sandwich.

The giveaway is a first in the United States.

McDonald’s introduced the Big Mac in 1968. In 1975, the special sauce got its own callout in the signature Big Mac commercial, touting the burger’s components: “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”

The bottles will be available Thursday at participating locations nationwide.

Additional details on how and where customers can get their hands on a bottle are expected to be released later Wednesday.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Group offers ‘toolkit’ for living with dementia

It just doesn’t sit well with Karen Love when people talk about people “suffering” from or being “victims” of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

“What we don’t hear much about is that people can and do live full and meaningful lives with dementia,” said the executive director of the national Dementia Action Alliance. “It’s very important that we raise money for the cure and focus on that but it’s also important that we focus on the care and look at dementia as a disability. When you have a disability mindset you automatically start thinking what supports, what accommodations, are needed to help that individual live as fully as possible.”

Her remarks came Wednesday morning during the unveiling of a “Caring Conversations Toolkit,” which includes a booklet designed for persons with mild-to-moderate dementia symptoms, another with advice for “care partners,” a packet of cards designed to stimulate conversation with a person who has the condition, and a 16-minute video.

“Florida is ground zero for dementia,” Love said, with about 500,000 people diagnosed with the condition. “And that number will increase as the baby-boom generation ages. We have an opportunity here in Florida. You can change the narrative the discussion away from being dementia tragedy to … dementia enlightenment, moving proactively to what turns out to be a long-term condition.

The toolkit was launched in Tallahassee because it’s inspiration was local resident Alexander “Sandy” Halperin, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s and has become a nationally recognized advocate. Partners in its development include the Westminster Oaks community, where he lives, and the Area Agency on Aging for North Florida.

Richard Prudom, deputy secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs, lauded regional partnerships throughout the state to enlighten the public about dementia and how to best deal with those who have the diseases.

“Every community is different, but our aim is to get it where every experience that a person with dementia has is a positive experience, whatever that is,” he said. “We’re talking about training for first responders, we could be talking about awareness for people at a restaurant or at a store. The secret is we didn’t come in to invent anything — the partnerships are already out there and all we’re doing is bringing them together and seeing great things.”

The entire toolkit ($45 plus shipping), or any of its four parts separately, can be ordered by visiting the Dementia Action Alliance store at daanow.org.

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FSU alumni make history with 8 Oscar nominations for ‘Moonlight’

The acclaimed film, “Moonlight,” from Florida State University graduate Barry Jenkins and his crew of FSU Film School alumni, has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Nominations for the 89th Annual Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning. Jenkins, who wrote the screenplay and directed “Moonlight,” was nominated in the Directing category. He shares a nomination for Adapted Screenplay with Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” which was the basis for the film.

“Moonlight” earned nominations for:

Directing — Jenkins (FSU ‘03)

Best Picture — Adele Romanski (FSU ‘04), Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner

Supporting Actress — Naomie Harris

Supporting Actor — Mahershala Ali

Cinematography — James Laxton (FSU ‘03)

Film Editing — Nat Sanders (FSU ’02) and Joi McMillon (FSU ‘03)

Adapted Screenplay — Jenkins and McCraney

Original Score — Nicholas Britell

Jenkins worked with a half dozen Florida State graduates on “Moonlight” — Adele Romanski, producer; Andrew Hevia, co-producer; James Laxton, cinematographer; Nat Sanders, editor; Joi McMillion, co-editor; and actor André Holland.

Reb Braddock, interim dean of the College of Motion Picture Arts, praised them.

“We could not be more proud of Barry Jenkins and his wonderful team of film school alums for their success,” Braddock said. “’Moonlight’ is a shining example of what we do here at the college. We combine talented groups of individuals and hone them into filmmaking teams who forge bonds as friends and collaborators for years to come.”

Valliere Richard Auzenne, an associate professor who taught each one of the “Moonlight” crew members when they attended FSU, also cheered their recognition.

“I’m so proud of all of them, but I’m not surprised,” said Auzenne, who teaches documentary filmmaking, film history and screenwriting. “Barry has always told interesting stories. He’s made difficult films. They aren’t films that make you feel good. They make you think and have complicated characters.”

“Moonlight” is a coming-of-age story that follows an African-American boy through his difficult childhood in a drug-plagued Miami neighborhood and into his early adult life.

Jenkins has said the film and its characters are similar to what he experienced growing up in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood.

Two other Florida State graduates were honored Tuesday with Oscar nominations for projects they helped lead.

Jonathan King, who graduated from FSU in 1992, was executive producer of the film “Deepwater Horizon.” It received nominations for Sound Editing and Visual Effects.

Also, Stephen Broussard — a 2003 graduate — was executive producer for “Doctor Strange,” which received a nomination for Visual Effects.

Oscars are awarded in 24 categories. A total of 336 feature films from 2016 were eligible for nominations.

The 89th Academy Awards are scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Hollywood. The ceremony will be televised in the United States on ABC at 7 p.m. EST and also appear in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

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Volusia Sheriff sets example by demanding ticket after caught speeding

Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood

A Florida sheriff asked to be ticketed after a deputy pulled him over for speeding in his unmarked car.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood tells The Daytona Beach News-Journal he wanted “to set an example” for his agency. The new sheriff was clocked going 78 mph in a 55-mph zone on Friday.

He was stopped a day after Volusia County settled a lawsuit for a deputy-related crash. The agency also is doing an internal investigation regarding a Dec. 20 crash involving another deputy who was speeding.

Chitwood says the sergeant stopped him and they talked briefly before going their separate ways. But Chitwood says he later realized he was wrong, called the sergeant and asked him to write the ticket. He’s already paid the $281 citation.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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After record-busting year, global shark attacks drop to recent average in 2016

After 2015’s record-busting 98 shark attacks, calmer waters prevailed in 2016. The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File reported 81 unprovoked attacks worldwide, in line with the five-year average of about 82 incidents annually.

Four of the attacks were fatal, a drop from six total fatalities the previous year. While the U.S. had no fatal attacks in 2016, it topped the leader board for the most attacks globally, with 53.

Global attacks remain on a slow upward trend as the human population grows and aquatic sports become more popular, said George Burgess, curator of the file, housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“A shark attack is a human phenomenon,” said Burgess, who explained that 2015’s spike in attacks was influenced by warmer waters produced by El Niño. “Sharks are a natural part of the ecosystem. The ocean is a foreign environment to humans, and when we enter the sea, we’re entering a wilderness.”

South Africa had fewer incidents than normal, with only a single, nonfatal attack. Australia, another shark attack hot spot, had 15, including two fatalities. In the South Pacific, the French territory of New Caledonia has emerged as “an area of concern” with four attacks in 2016, including two fatalities, Burgess said.

In the U.S., Florida had the greatest number of attacks — 32 — accounting for about 60 percent of attacks in North America and about 40 percent of the global total. With 15 incidents, Volusia County accounted for nearly half of Florida’s total attacks. Hawaii had 10 attacks, followed by California with four, North Carolina with three, South Carolina with two and single attacks in Texas and Oregon.

The database, which tracks shark attacks globally, defines unprovoked shark attacks as those initiated by a shark in its natural habitat. Burgess said that many of these incidents might be more accurately called “human-shark interactions,” as not all attacks cause injury, and they can include a rough bump from a shark or a bite on a surfboard.

Fifty-eight percent of the attacks worldwide involved board sports. Surfing, Boogie boarding and paddle boarding produce kicking and splashing — the kind of water disturbance that can draw a shark, Burgess said.

“Sharks are attracted to irregular activity, especially with the inevitable wipeout and the big splash that follows,” he said. “If you have a shark trailing, that’s often when it will strike.”

Although shark attacks have gradually increased, the number of fatal attacks has consistently fallen over the past century, said Lindsay French, database manager for the Florida Program for Shark Research and the attack file. She and Burgess attribute this decline to improved safety practices on beaches, better medical treatment and growing public awareness of how to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

While the chances of being injured or killed by a shark are “infinitesimal,” Burgess said, the ISAF offers recommendations for how to lower the risk of a shark attack or fend off an attacking shark.

He and French noted that while the human population is skyrocketing, many shark species are on the decline. Threatened by overfishing and loss of habitat, sharks’ complex life history makes it difficult for them to rebound quickly, Burgess said. As major predators, their numbers are inherently low compared with other smaller marine species, and their slow sexual maturation process, yearlong pregnancies and long life spans compound the obstacles to rebuilding populations.

“Once shark populations are down, recovery takes a long, long time,” he said. “They hold a special place in their ecosystem, and a loss at one node in the web of marine life is going to have an effect on the overall system.”

Via UF News.

George Burgess
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Strategic Digital Services garners national attention

A Florida digital firm is getting national recognition as one of the best in political communications.

Strategic Digital Services (SDS), is receiving notice for exceptional client work in 2016, with three projects among the finalists for the 2017 Reed Awards. SDS, based in Tallahassee, specializes in data analysis, digital media, and software development for a range of political campaigns and causes.

Campaigns & Elections magazine produces the annual Reed Awards and Conference. The magazine is a pre-eminent resource offering tools, tactics and techniques for the political consulting industry.

SDS captured three finalist spots for Florida client campaigns:

— Best Fundraising Email Creative/Copy for State Legislative Campaign: State Rep. Matt Hudson for the “Satanic display at the Capitol” email blast.

— Best Web Video for State Legislative Candidate: State Rep. Rene Plasencia for his time-lapse video.

— Best Use of Virtual or Augmented Reality: Plasencia for his “360 Video.”

 “A combination of outstanding clients, great content and creative tactics have helped grow some of the largest and most engaged audiences in Florida Politics,” said SDS co-founders Joe Clements and Matt Farrar in a statement. “It’s a joy to do what we do.”

The Reeds are an “agenda-setting event” for those in the business of political campaigns. Named after Campaigns & Elections founder Stanley Foster Reed, the Reeds salute excellence in political campaigning, campaign management, consulting and design.

The 2017 Reed Awards will be announced during the conference Feb. 16-17 at the ARIA Casino and Resort in Las Vegas.

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Blake Dowling: Star Wars: Rogue One brings hope, inspiration with CGI movie magic

I saw the new Star Wars flick last week. Loved it. Like really loved it, as much as Luke loved shooting Womp Rats on Tatooine.

I figured I would wait until the crowds thinned a little bit and not see the film in the first few weeks after release. I remember, as a kid, standing in line on the opening night of “Return of the Jedi” at Porter Square Mall in Dothan, Alabama; with what seemed like tens of thousands of people.

In Dothan, you didn’t get crowds like that, unless it was the Peanut Festival. Yes, that is a real thing and, yes, it was a rager. Think concert-rodeo-fair super-sized combo kind of event, ‘Bama style.

You know, Dothan is the peanut capital of the world, but … moving on.

If you haven’t seen “Star Wars: Rogue One,” go ahead and stop reading HERE.

I had read the prequel to Rouge One, called “Catalyst,” so I was very familiar with the scientific work of Dr. Erso, the fall of the Republic and turning into the Empire. Also, Rogue One is a prequel to a New Hope. So, it would appear they dig prequels. Bouncing around from planet to planet was cool.

Rogue One was a very in-depth look at a behind-the-scenes look at the Empire and the power structure. The same with the Rebellion, you got to see several layers deep in what was really going on a long time ago in that famed galaxy far, far away.

As the film progressed, in walks Grand Moff Tarkin — looking straight outta 1979.

All the Botox in the world can’t pull that off, not to mention that actor Peter Cushing is dead. So how did Lucas Film/Disney bring back the only bad guy that could tell Vader to pipe down?

The technology is known as computer generated imagery (CGI). The type of tech compiles computer graphics to build 3-D images that are both static and dynamic. In this case, a compilation of images leads to the resurrection of the No. 3 Imperial baddie.

But before Rogue One, we must go back to 1968 to a group of Russians. The same Russians that laughed at Nasa’s multimillion-dollar space pen that could write in zero gravity. The Ruskies had a 10-cent alternative: “we take pencil to space.”

So, in ‘68 a team of scientists, led by N. Konstantinov, developed high-level math in which they could move a digital cat across a computer screen. Winning.

By 1976, the tech had made its way to the big screen in the film future world, and by this point, the ball was really rolling.

“Superman,” “Aliens,” “Black Hole” really pushed the boundaries of its use and set the bar for what is possible, which, essentially, is anything. The slow-mo bullet effect in the “Matrix” films. That’s CGI tech, too.

This type of special effect changed movies then — and is 100 percent changing the game now. The ability to bring back imagery from our childhoods even cooler than it was then is awe-inspiring.

When I saw the end of Rogue One, I was 100 percent choked up to see the return of our beloved Princess. The world was certainly a better place with her in it.

As we played Star Wars on the playground in Dothan in 1980 — or as my wife and I enjoyed last weekend — the franchise always brought entertainment, hope and inspiration, as good versus evil waged war.

In loving memory of Carrie Fisher: may The Force be with us all.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He writes for several organizations. You may reach him here: dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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On Inauguration Day, ‘House of Cards’ announces May return

“House of Cards” will return in May for a fifth season.

The show’s Twitter account posted a video on Inauguration Day featuring an upside-down U.S. flag in front of the U.S. Capitol. The video ends with the date May 30. An upside-down flag is a signal of distress.

The show stars Kevin Spacey as President Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife, first lady Claire Underwood.

The upcoming season will be the first under new co-showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese. Former showrunner Beau Willimon stepped away from the role after last season.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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