Pasco County man receives first delivery of medical marijuana in Florida

A Pasco County man suffering from Dystonia with Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms became the first Florida patient to receive a delivery of medical marijuana today from Trulieve, a medical cannabis dispensary.

The delivery came days after Trulieve became the first dispensary to receive formal authorization from the state Department of Health to both grow and dispense low THC-medical cannabis.

“Honoring our commitment to a statewide delivery service, we are pleased and proud to announce that the very first patient in the state has received low-THC medical cannabis,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said.

She added, “I have said this before, but we really want to thank the Department of Health for their supreme public service during this process.  The staff and leadership have been consummate professionals throughout this process and have been accessible and knowledgeable all along the way.”

Now that the first patient has received medical cannabis, Rivers said Trulieve would begin in-store sales of medical marijuana at its Tallahassee facility within the next few days. It will be the first such dispensary in Florida.

Patients won’t have to travel to the state capitol to receive the drug. Trulieve will provide statewide delivery of low-THC cannabis immediately. Trulieve will also have high-THC medical marijuana available beginning in early August.

The legalization of marijuana has been a hot-button item across the country for the past several years. So far, 25 states have legalized medical marijuana. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. Still, other states have some form of the issue on November ballots.

United for Care got a medical marijuana amendment on the 2014 ballot, but it was defeated. Although a majority of voters — about 58 percent — supported the initiative, it failed because state law requires a state constitutional amendment to get at least 60 percent of the vote.

The initiative is back on the ballot this Nov. 8. If approved, medical marijuana would become legal for those with “debilitating” medical conditions.

But more recent changes to laws have relaxed the laws regarding the prescribing of medical marijuana to some patients with the most severe or fatal diseases.

Doctors in Florida are allowed to dispense medical cannabis under the “Charlotte’s Web law.” That law allows doctors to prescribe the drug to treat a qualified patient with cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms provided no other satisfactory alternative treatment exists for that patient.

Terminally ill patients or those with certain medical conditions are allowed to try nontraditional remedies under the “Right to Try Act.”

Patients who wish to obtain an order for the low-THC cannabis or higher THC medical cannabis products may do so by contacting their physician who can issue an order for these products in accordance with Florida law.

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Justin Grabelle puts his first TV ad up in CD 11 race

Justin Grabelle is going up with his first television ad in his campaign to win Florida’s 11th Congressional District.

The 34-year-old former chief-of-staff to outgoing CD 11 incumbent Rich Nugent is in an extremely competitive Republican primary campaign against Daniel Webster. 

Webster currently represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District, but opted to run in CD 11 once redistricting made his chances of re-election virtually nil this fall.

CD 11 includes Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter Counties.

In the ad, called “It’s Personal,” Grabelle references his personal story of his brother’s service on board the USS Cole the day it was attacked in the fall of 2000.

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Chris Sprowls leaves state prosecutor’s office for private practice

Chris Sprowls is hanging up his hat as a prosecutor.

The 32-year-old Palm Harbor Republican expected to serve as Speaker of the Florida House said he had joined the firm of Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney. The decision marks the end of a seven-year career with the State Attorney’s Office for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

“We’re going to miss him,” said State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

Sprowls, whose last day was July 8, said he decided to make the leap because he wanted to try his hand at civil law. He said he would work predominantly in the real estate and litigation practice groups at BIR.

Sprowls joined the State Attorney’s Office, which serves Pasco and Pinellas counties, shortly after graduating law school.

During his time as a prosecutor, he tried dozens of jury trials, many involving violent crimes. One of the most notable cases of his career was the conviction of William Hurst for the 1982 murder of his wife, Amy.

“I spent the better part of a decade as a prosecutor. It was an absolutely amazing job,” said Sprowls. “I’m super blessed I got to work for Bernie McCabe, (who is) the smartest state attorney in Florida.”

McCabe said Sprowls became an accomplished trial attorney over the years and was “almost a natural” for the job. He also helped start the area’s veteran’s court, getting the court up and running.

“That guy could’ve been a great prosecutor if he wanted to (be one) for the rest of his life,” said McCabe. “He’ll be missed.”

Sprowls said was looking for the “same kind of mentorship” he received from McCabe over the years, which was one of the reasons why he decided to join Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney. There he’ll work for Rhea Law, who he called one of the most “well-respected attorneys in Florida.”

The decision may also give Sprowls a bit more time to focus on his legislative career. First elected to the Florida House in 2014, Sprowls recently won a hard-fought intraparty scrump to serve as Speaker beginning after the 2020 elections. With a leadership role comes more responsibilities, including fundraising and helping to make sure Republicans keep their majority in the House.

A lifelong Tampa Bay resident, Sprowls graduated from Stetson University School of Law in 2009. He is married with one son, and a second on the way.

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East Tampa activist says mailer in HD 61 indicates she’s supporting a candidate that she isn’t

East Tampa activist Michelle Patty is upset about a campaign mailer that she says infers she’s supporting a candidate that she’s not in the House District 61 race.

On the backside of a just issued mailer paid for by the Florida Retail Federation PAC, Patty is seen standing next to East Tampa businesswoman and activist Dianne Hart, who is running against fellow Democrats Sean Shaw and Walter Smith in the Tampa-centric district, which encompasses downtown Tampa, Ybor City and Seminole Heights.

However, Patty is backing Shaw in the contest, and she’s demanding an apology from Hart for the perception that she’s not.

“Some of the members of my congregation have approached me asking for an explanation for seemingly endorsing a candidate who doesn’t hold our values or the values of our neighborhoods,” Patty sent out in a statement Thursday night. She wants Hart to apologize to her personally, and to the voters in HD 61.

“I further ask that you be truthful with voters going forward,” Patty writes, adding, “We need someone who will stand up to special interests in Tallahassee, not join them in misleading voters.”

When contacted, Hart said she hadn’t even seen the ad sent out from Tallahassee by the Florida Retail Federation’s PAC.

“The pictures were public photos of public events,” Hart said on Friday. “I would definitely apologize if she would contact me. I don’t want to use anybody on any of my stuff that is not a supporter of mine, that’s for certain.”

Hart added that it doesn’t benefit her to have an ad showing somebody that isn’t a supporter of her. When questioned that it could possibly help her in her campaign against Shaw and Smith, Hart said she didn’t think so.

“Everybody knows who Michelle Patty is supporting,” adding, “If she says something to me I will definitely speak to her about that.”

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WFLA Channel 8 reporter sacrificed truth to advance career, lawsuit says

A Hillsborough woman says she was defamed by two “completely false” television reports and has filed suit against Media General, owner of WFLA Channel 8, and one of its reporters.

Erisan Seibert is also claiming that TV reporter Shannon Behnken invaded her privacy by, among other things, “intentionally and without authorization” intruding upon and invading her private living space.

The defamation and privacy violations, Seibert says in the suit, shocked, traumatized and humiliated her. Seibert is seeking monetary damages for both the defamation and invasion of privacy.

Neither Seibert, Behnken, nor Media General could be reached for comment.

The lawsuit arose from two WFLA television reports in 2014. The reports were also promoted on the station and featured in stories on the station’s web page. According to the lawsuit and a letter from Seibert’s attorney, Jesse L. Skipper of St. Petersburg, the newscasts focused on a dispute between people who were sharing a Tampa house. Skipper’s 11-page letter demanding a retraction is attached to the lawsuit as an exhibit.

The impression left by the reports, according to the suit and the letter, was that Seibert had no right to be in the house but was merely squatting there. In actuality the suit says, Seibert had paid rent in order to share space in the house.

The lawsuit sets out 25 “false statements, implications and innuendos” in the broadcast. Among them: Seibert and her boyfriend had manipulated a loophole in the law to get a free place to stay; that she used the family’s coffee filters as toilet paper;  and that Seibert had no right to live in the house.

“Overall, the broadcasts and associated web stories were completely false,” Skipper’s letter says.

Had Behnken checked her facts, the falsity of the allegations made by one of the other parties to the dispute could have been easily discovered, the lawyer says. All Behnken had to do, Skipper said, was to check with police who had been called to the residence three times. Police, Skipper said, had “quickly determined” that the allegations made about Seibert were untrue.

“Ms. Behnken, on the other hand, was apparently not interested in the truth, but in racking up another ‘squatter’ story,” Skipper wrote. “Behnken knew critical facts were false and knew [the other party’s] story was improbable, hotly disputed and unsupported by evidence.”

Skipper added that Behnken was “not unbiased.”

“There are numerous remarks showing Ms. Behnken’s interest in reaping personal glory and advancing her career. … At the end of the July 14 broadcast, Behnken claims credit for driving these folks from their residence. Her attitude is openly taunting and triumphalist, the journalistic equivalent of spiking the ball and dancing an end-zone jig. It’s shameful and a virtual admission of malice, bad faith, and intent to harm,” Skipper wrote.

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St. Petersburg council bans sale of dogs, cats from puppy mills in pet stores

Council members have unanimously approved an ordinance that bans pet stores in St. Petersburg from selling dogs or cats unless they can show the animal came from a humane organization.

The approval came after an emotionally intense public hearing in which animal advocates displayed graphic, gut-wrenching photographs of dogs kept in puppy mills for breeding purposes. Other supporters came close to tears over the plight of the animals that are in puppy mills or that are killed in shelters because of pet overpopulation.

Council member Karl Nurse, who had proposed the idea, which had the support of Mayor Rick Kriseman, made the motion to pass the ordinance. Nurse said he hoped the ordinance would help stem the “endless onslaught of puppies that are not spayed and neutered.”

The ordinance provides that pet stores, which includes groomers, flea markets and pet hospitals, cannot sell dogs or cats unless they come from rescue organizations or humane societies. The rule does not apply to hobby breeders who sell animals from their homes.

The ordinance also covers the display of pets for sale. The requirements include an age limit – the animal must be at least eight weeks old, have access to fresh water and a health certificate. Information about the animal’s breed, age, source and known health issues should also be provided.

Council members and advocates conceded that no pet store in St. Petersburg currently sells puppies and kittens. Instead, several pet stores either display animals from rescues and other humane groups, or have adoption days when such pets are available. Even so, the ordinance was needed, they said, to make sure no pet store does business with a puppy mill.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said he would like to thank St. Petersburg residents for being the reason that no pet stores are selling animals that come from puppy mills. It’s the public’s refusal to buy such animals that prevent the stores from carrying them. But Gerdes agreed the ordinance is necessary to avoid future problems.

“We don’t have them now, let’s not have them,” Gerdes said.

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Mitch Perry Report for 7.22.16 – Donald Trump, your humble servant

One of the great ironies of the 2016 Republican presidential race is how the cult of personality regarding their nominee is probably the deciding factor in why Donald Trump is their nominee for president.

In 2008 and ever since, conservatives decried a similar cult that was built around Barack Obama. Remember the JohnMcCain campaign calling him (in a way meant to be derisive) that he was a “celebrity”? Well, The Donald is that squared, considering how often he’s been on televisions and tabloids for decades.

Last night at the Hillsborough County Republican Party convention watch party, a former New Yorker who now lives in Valrico told me that he (regretfully) voted for Obama twice, but is rock solid behind Trump this year. He’s a registered independent, sick of politicians, and absolutely loves Trump’s Tell it Like It is Ethos.

You know who doesn’t? The Republican establishment. We still don’t really know everything Trump believes in, because he doesn’t set out too many policy positions, seeming to improvise a lot of his answers.

But he seems pretty cool with LGBT rights, as he mentioned in his speech last night. And by giving Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel at 9:30 p.m speaking slot – where he announced he was a proud gay man, proud Republican and proud American, won lots of plaudits.

That’s a very different mindset than what a lot of Republicans believe in – particularly the ones on the platform committee that was responsible for what most observers who follow these things say is the most extreme GOP platform on LGBT rights ever.

The NBA just moved the 2017 All-Star game out of North Carolina because their lawmakers have not changed HB2, a bill that would allow transgender North Carolinians to use the bathroom. That outraged their Republican Governor, Pat McGrory, who said in a statement, that “American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

I don’t want to say I know where the American people are with all of this, but I’m going to take Adam Silver’s side vs. McGrory. And apparently, so will Trump. And Republicans, independents, and yes, some Democrats, are getting on the Trump Train.

Trump never used the word “conservative” at all last night. That’s a fact. And when he heard the chant of,”lock her up,” the mantra of the week about how the GOP base feels should be done to Hillary Clinton, Trump stared the audience down and said, “Let’s Defeat her in November.”

His comments about NATO on Wednesday definitely shook up the GOP establishment. There’s still lots of divisions between the establishment and Trump – but the base is turned on by the 70-year-old NYC real estate mogul. If he were to win in November – well, that would really be interesting to see how the Republican Party adjusts.

Now on to Philadelphia.

In other news..

A sober minded Bob Buckhorn presented his fiscal year 2017 budget to the Tampa City Council yesterday, and he really wants them to approve a $250 million package of stormwater improvements.

Tampa state House Representative Ed Narain was at the University Village retirement home in North Tampa, and he wants to change the laws regarding such CCRC’s.

And seldom a day goes by the House District 68 race in Pinellas County without a candidate getting an endorsement. Yesterday it was Eric Lynn’s turn.

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Proposal to limit outside money in St. Pete elections moves to committee

A split St. Petersburg City Council voted Thursday to send a proposal that would limit political action committees’ involvement in municipal election to a committee for discussion.

If the idea passes the committee, it would come back to the Council.

The proposal, which is the brainchild of Councilmember Darden Rice, is aimed at “super PACs,” political action committees that are allowed to raise an unlimited amount of money from corporations, unions, individuals and associations to influence the outcome of elections.

Rice seeks to do two things by passing an ordinance: Cap donations made by corporations and other wealthy contributors to PACS and require corporations that donate to the PACs to certify that they are not foreign companies. The ordinance would apply only to St. Petersburg city elections.

The idea was popular among most of the city residents who came out to urge council members to eventually adopt an ordinance limiting the donations. David McKalip was a vocal opponent, accusing Rice of being a hypocrite because she took money from PACs when she ran for office.

Rice agreed that she took money from political action committees, but did not take funds from super PACs. The fact that she raised more than $100,000 when donations were capped at $500 is an indication, she said, that candidates can successfully fundraise and run without big money behind them.

Although a majority of the council sent the item to a committee, it’s unclear how much support it will get once there.

Ed Montanari, the lone vote against moving the item to committee, said he is skeptical because of the possibility of a lawsuit if the ordinance is eventually passed.

“This looks to me to be a test case,” Montanari said.

Jim Kennedy was also skeptical. Although he voted to move the item to committee, Kennedy said he would have questions about ways to protect the city from the liability of attorney’s fees should someone sue and win.

Karl Nurse had another perspective, saying, “If this be a test case, I’d be honored to be part of that.”

Nurse said there are multiple examples in Florida of the problems caused by corporate money influencing elected officials. One example, he said, is the Everglades. The Everglades doesn’t get cleaned up, he said, because Big Sugar contributes so much money to legislators.

“I look forward to this conversation because there are big stakes here,” Nurse said.

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Prices for Pinellas homes, condos went up in June, Realtors say

The median price for a single family home in Pinellas was up 18.9 percent in June when compared to the same month last year.

Figures released by the Pinellas Realtor Organization show the median price for a single family home in June was $220,000. That’s up from $185,000 in June, 2015.

The amount is a new high when compared to figures from the past 12 months. Median prices during the June 2015 through May 2016 period ranged from a low of $180,000 in October 2015 to $200,000 in March, April and May.

Sales were also a bit faster in June than a year ago. The median time for a home to be sold in June 2015 was 76 days; this past June, the median time from listing to closing was 72 days.

Sales were a bit more brisk for higher priced homes than they were in June 2015. Sales of homes worth less than $50,000 decreased by about 51.9 percent. Those worth $50,000 to $99,999 and $100,000 to $149,999 decreased by 45.6 percent and 22.3 percent respectively.

The biggest gains in sales came for homes worth $300,000 to $399,999 and $600,000 to $999,999, which saw a 43.4 percent and 48.1 percent increase in sales, respectively.

Sales of condominiums and townhomes also saw an increase in median prices.

The median cost of a condominium/townhome was $140,000 in June 2016, or 16.7 percent more than the June 2015 median price of $120,000.

That June figure was also a 12-month high for median prices. In the preceding 11 months, the median price for condos/townhomes ranged from a $120,000 to $138,250.

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Associated Builders and Contractors back Eric Lynn in HD 68 race

The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Florida Gulf Coast Chapter is backing Eric Lynn in the state House District 68 seat.

“We are proud to endorse Eric Lynn for House District 68 because he will best represent our community, builders and contractors, and we look forward to working with him in Tallahassee,” said Steve Cona, President/CEO of ABC Florida Gulf Coast. The Lynn endorsement was one of a slew of state house and senate races that the group made this week.

“I am grateful for the endorsement and the opportunity to work alongside ABC Florida in Pinellas and throughout the great state of Florida,” said Eric Lynn.

The ABC Florida Gulf Coast Chapter is comprised of more than 400 member companies and is focused on providing construction firms with a host of membership benefits, including legislative advocacy, apprenticeship training, management education, safety training and business development.

They also get involved in public policy. Last year a lobbyist for the group blasted the St. Petersburg City Council after it passed an ordinance that requires contractors to reserve 10 percent of work hours for workers either with criminal records or who have received some form of public assistance in the previous year on projects that cost $2 million or more. Edward Briggs called the ordinance unfeasible and bad public policy.

The group was more successful in persuading the legal staff in the city of Tampa not to follow St. Pete’s path.

Lynn, a former Defense Dept. official in the Obama administration, is running against attorney Ben Diamond in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

 

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