The Salt Life: Hey, Nation! We are freezing too! (by Sasha)

Here in Florida we have viewed countless accounts of the freezing weather throughout the nation–but there has been hardly a word from the national news media about how we here on the Suncoast of Florida are suffering.

So here is my corrective to that lack of news coverage: It’s like brutally cold here and we are struggling, bigley!

IMG_5109To begin, the temperature today ranged from the low 30s to a high of 54. That’s right, no fake news here, this is an actual photo of a thermometer in Sarasota, FL at 3:30 p.m. Horrifying, is it not?

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At lunch time today, outdoor cafes were frigid and we had to eat…INDOORS! It was like so crowded!

 

 

 

People were seen wearing not only closed toed shoes, but egads–SOCKS! And women covered-up in woolen shawls! And STILL they were cold!

The world’s No. 1 Beach, Siesta Beach, was…EMPTY!!! Unheard of!siesta empty

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Ignore that sunshine and blue sky, the pool was too CHILLY for swimming. Even Lido Beach closed their pool. Brrrrr!

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There was a run on space heaters at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Target! It was madness and survival of the fittest!

 

It reminded Karma of her days in Syracuse, NY, and Koda was glad to have his fur coat!

 

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And in rare film footage, even Jack’s beloved Miata was seen tucked away in the garage with–HORRORS!–the top UP!

 

 

 

Keep us in your prayers, Nation. We survived Hurricane Irma, and we’ll use those skills to get through this as well.

 

 

 

 

 

The Salt Life: Where is Tom? (by Jack)

Screenshot 2018-01-14 13.32.59If you are a reader of the Sarasota Herald Tribune you have no doubt noticed that journalist Tom Lyons’ column is no longer a part of the paper. In August of 2017 Tom resigned. His column performed an important function in the community. In many ways he became the voice for those who were the victims of unfair treatment by government officials, bureaucrats, employers, HOAs, and other authorities. His column was based on a fundamental democratic cultural assumption (perhaps naïve) that if an injustice was made public community opinion would function as a corrective and force authorities to correct the problem. His simple stories illustrated that democracy was not about institutions (e.g. voting) as much as it was about cultural attitudes and beliefs.

Lyons resigned because of personnel changes that he found unacceptable. Management at the paper made Lee Williams (a.k.a. The Gun Writer) the editor of Special Topics, in effect, making him Tom’s boss. Williams and Lyons “did not play well together” and Lyons decided to quit rather than work with him as his “boss.” He put it this way: “I have long had a strong personal antipathy for the man . . . assigned to become my supervising editor. The reasons for my feelings for the man may not matter. . . . Assigning this particular editor to me was a sharp stick in the eye.”

Many local government officials are most certainly breathing a sigh of relief knowing that Tom Lyons is not going to be second-guessing their decisions. Indeed the columnist who has replaced Tom, Carrie Seidman, has indicated that she will not be taking on the kinds of issues Lyons did. “My style is conversational, not confrontational, my focus on unifying rather than taking sides,” she wrote in her maiden column. But more than that, her columns are less about other people and more about her and her experiences. She writes about downtown flooding because she had to drive through a flooded intersection, she writes about the decline of newspapers because friends of hers are losing their jobs at them, she writes about racism after taking a walking tour of Newtown.

The contrast between Lyons and Seidman is stark. Lyons advocated for the person getting screwed and he identified exactly who was screwing him/her and he demanded answers. He used his column to offer a critical take on news stories and address issues behind the scenes that were not otherwise reported. Seidman is self-referential, and even when addressing situations of injustice fails to trace who the responsible authorities are who could solve the problems and instead concludes that somehow the royal “we” need to come up with solutions. It is the difference between exposés and taking a stance about abuses of power versus human interest stories that draw no conclusion.

I don’t know where Tom is today. My guess is he’s playing his guitar and fishing. In any case I miss his columns. He made Sarasota a better place (even though he never followed through on a couple of my “tips”), and given the state of American democracy today, a voice like his is needed more than ever.

The Salt Life: Medical Marijuana in Florida (Part III: Blame the Feds for a Lack of Access) by Sasha

Here is a riddle:  How can some states legalize marijuana (for medical and/or recreational use) when the national government has declared marijuana an illegal drug?

The answer:  Federalism. (Thank James Madison for this one.)scaletowidth

Although the U.S. Constitution recognizes that the states retain “police powers” over the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens, Article I of the document gives Congress power over interstate commerce (a power that has been very broadly defined in subsequent U.S. Supreme Court cases.) The result is a grey area of shared powers with the result that the federal government can attempt to trump (no pun intended) the efforts of the states to decriminalize marijuana.

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the Drug Enforcement Administration is authorized to classify drugs. The DEA does so using a system of classification called schedules. Schedule I drugs are viewed as having the most potential for abuse while Schedule V the least.

Marijuana, along with heroin, LSD, and ecstacy are Schedule I drugs, defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential of abuse.

In contrast, Schedules II through Schedule V drugs are recognized as having medicinal purposes.

But take a look at this:  oxycodone, fentanyl, and cocaine are categorized as less dangerous Schedule II drugs. And FYI, Schedule III drugs include anabolic steroids, codeine, and testosterone; Schedule IV drugs include Ambien, Ativan, Valium, and Xanax; and Schedule V drugs include antidiarrheal, anitussive, and analgesic drugs.

If this classification system makes sense to you, I want what you’re smoking. As it stands, the federal government maintains that marijuana is akin to heroin, and because marijuana is more likely to be abused than opioids, fentanyl, and anabolic steroids, it is more dangerous than those drugs. I beg to differ since the death tolls, addictions, and physical harms from these Schedule II and III drugs argue otherwise.

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The implications from being categorized as a Schedule I drug are many:

  • It makes “medical marijuana” an oxymoron because the federal government states that marijuana has no medical use.
  • This makes it very difficult for researchers to study the medical effects of cannabis because it is so strictly regulated.
  • Evidence of the curative powers or symptom relieving powers of medical marijuana are therefore mostly anecdotal: patients say it helps. But for this to be recognized by the DEA, scientific studies must prove this—and this is not allowed for Schedule I drugs (a Catch-22).
  • This means that although some states have legalized the growth, distribution, and use of cannabis, these actions are still illegal under federal law.
  • Given this, physicians, clinics, and distributors may be understandably uneasy about becoming involved with medical marijuana.
  • Because of its illegal designation on the national level, cannabis businesses are hampered: the US Postal Service cannot ship this drug, national banks will not authorize accounts or credit cards to be used for these drugs, and health care insurance companies will not cover this drug.

So why isn’t the federal government enforcing its ban on marijuana by raiding those who are breaking federal law?

Each year since 2014, Congress has renewed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment that disallows the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency from using federal dollars to prosecute marijuana businesses operating in states that have legalized them. But this is a precarious protection that Congress has to renew each year.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked Congress not to renew the Amendment this year so that he can enforce federal law. (So much for the Republican Party’s love of states rights.)

Therefore, as much as Florida seems reluctant to enact a process that respects the mandate from the passage of Amendment 2 legalizing medical marijuana, the real problem is the DEA and the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. States like Florida may attempt to chip away at the federal law criminalizing marijuana, but it will take actions on the federal level to truly give patients access to medical cannabis.

cannabis_research_imageWhat is needed are studies to explore the medical purposes of marijuana, and to make this possible, marijuana should be recategorized as a Schedule II or Schedule III drug.

And there may be another way. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the MEDS (Marijuana Effective Drug Study) Act of 2017 that would allow more medical marijuana research to be conducted.

It’s high time. (Sorry about the pun.)

 

The Salt Life: Medical Marijuana in Florida. [Part I: How to Get It] (by Sasha)

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That it is easier in Florida to legally obtain a gun (even in the aftermath of mass shootings) or to obtain opioids (in the midst of an overdose epidemic) than it is to obtain medical marijuana speaks volumes.

In 2016, with “yes” votes totaling 71%, the citizens of Florida approved Amendment 2, the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative. However, this overwhelming public support has not translated into the political will or the practical structure to follow this mandate. The result of this political intransigence is that although the law took effect in January 2017, medical marijuana is not readily accessible in Florida. The failure of politicians to abide by the will of the people is one major obstacle, but another is that there is a great deal of confusion about how to legally obtain medical marijuana.

In this blog entry (Part I), I’m going to explain the process. In upcoming entries (Parts II and III), I’ll highlight and analyze some of the quirks about Florida law regarding medical marijuana. Part I is intended to be instructive; Parts II and III may make you laugh or cry–but you will certainly groan.

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Brad Weinstock and Dr. Dan Stein at Fogartyville

My source for the details of the process is the presentation, “Medical Marijuana Q and A,” held at Fogartyville on Tuesday night (October 19). Dr. Dan Stein and Mr. Brad Weinstock of Neurology of Cannabis took questions from an audience of around 50 people about how patients can legally obtain medical marijuana. Neurology of Cannabis is a medical marijuana recommendation clinic that opened at 5602 Marquesas Circle, Sarasota, FL 34233. (941-600-9055)

So here is the process:

  1. Florida Residency.  In order to obtain a card that authorizes you to obtain medical marijuana, you must have proof that you are a resident of Florida (e.g., a passport, tax bill, driver’s license, etc.)
  2. “Qualifying Condition.” Patients must have a “qualifying condition” as recognized under Amendment 2 and the legislation that put it into effect. (These conditions are detailed below.)
  3. Physician Recommendation. Patients must meet with a physician who has been certified by Florida to “recommend,” rather than technically to “prescribe,” the use of medical marijuana. This recommendation is filed online with the Florida Department of Health. The physician charges for this consultation meeting and most require payment in cash. No insurance companies cover this cost. [My own observation is that prices range from $250 to $1000.]
  4. Medical Marijuana Card. The patient needs to apply for the medical marijuana card and pays the Florida Department of Health $75 for this application. In some cases, the recommending physician or clinic will help the patient apply. It takes 4 to 6 weeks for the State to issue the card although under the law it should be issued in 30 days.
  5. Dispensary. Once the patient has received the Medical Marijuana photo ID card, a 70-day supply of the recommended medical marijuana can be obtained but only through a state licensed grower at one of their dispensaries. Costs vary, but again, cash is usually required and there is no insurance coverage. Currently, Florida law allows for only 12 growers and so far ten have received state licenses. The location of dispensaries is a political football limited by city and county zoning laws. Currently, there is no dispensary in Sarasota. Some dispensaries will deliver the marijuana directly to the patient.
  6. Follow-Up. The recommending physician has to file an updated treatment plan for the patient every 70 days (roughly 5 times a year.) Dosages can be adjusted at this time. There is no state requirement for an in-person consultation until 210 days from the initial consultation with the physician. Again, there are differences among recommending physicians whether patients will be charged for each updated treatment plan filed or for the 210 day in-person consult.

So that in a nutshell is the process…easy right?  Hardly.howtoescapea

I’m sure you have a lot of remaining questions including: How to find a recommending physician? Why won’t your physician do this? How to find a dispensary? What forms of marijuana can be dispensed?  Why is cash required and why won’t insurance companies help with the costs? Why does the federal government still maintain this is illegal?

I’ll try to answer these and more in Parts II and III.

Meanwhile, here is the answer to one of the biggest questions: What is a “qualifying condition?” This information comes from the handout and comments provided by Neurology of Cannabis, and from some of the regulations and legislation that put Amendment 2 into effect. Qualifying conditions:

  • Cancer, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, ALA, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, myelopathy, spasticity.
  • Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above. [Note: This is more open to interpretation and could include conditions such as neuralgia, anxiety, insomnia, myospasm, movement disorders and colitis.]
  • A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualifying physician who issues the recommendation.
  • Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying condition. (Huh?)
  • Another possibility to consider: Endocannobinoid Deficiency Syndrome (i.e., conditions like migraines, irritable bowel, inflammation, and fibromyalgia that may be caused by cannobinoid deficiency, and therefore can be alleviated by clinical cannabis.)

medical-marijuana-san-diego-logoAnd here is a very intriguing gap in the law: there is no requirement that the patient provide the recommending physician with medical documents. You read that right. The recommendation can be based on what the patient tells the doctor during the consult, although the physician has the discretion to ask for more.

Next blog:  Medical Marijuana Part II: Smoke and Mirrors. Stay tuned and please feel free to repost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Salt Life: Disparate Ramblings following Hurricane Irma (by Sasha)

A week after Hurricane Irma…some factoids and thoughts:

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  • Nickname:  Irmageddon (apt for the devastation of Caribbean Islands and the Florida Keys)
  • Local news stations were asked by the Pasco County Sheriff’s office to instruct locals NOT to shoot guns at the Hurricane. It had to be explained that (1) this would not alter the direction of the storm and (2) that the bullets themselves could prove dangerous.
  • In Sarasota and Manatee Counties, largely spared because of the storm’s turn, over 64,000 people were still without power as of 6pm Saturday night; that is 1 in 7 of Florida Power & Light customers in the two counties (Source: Herald-Tribune, 9-16-17, p. B1).

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  • Sarasota was largely spared but the impact continues: some gas stations and businesses still not reopened, some food shortages remain as deliveries haven’t arrived (e.g., skim milk, crackers, some fresh produce), tons of food ruined from lack of power fill dumpsters while people are being fed by neighbors, friends, charities, All Faith’s Food Bank, etc., lots of tree debris piled up at curbs waiting to be picked up; most local colleges and schools have remained closed (some served as shelters during the storm) but hope to reopen this coming week; Power and Light trucks, both locally and out of state, have set up local camps for workers who are trying to restore power by the 20th which would be two days ahead of schedule.

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  • A new danger was posed by traffic lights that were out. When this occurs, the rule is not “floor it” but act as if the light was blinking red: meaning that vehicles from every direction must come to a full stop and then take turns going through the intersection.

 

  • Some evacuees are still waiting to find airline tickets to return. Some who drove back only made it because they had filled gas cans with them (so many stations throughout the state still without fuel.)

 

  • Gov. Scott (who I think showed unusual leadership, transparency, and competence during the storm) still remains unconvinced of human-induced climate change.

 

  • Even with five days to prepare, preparation was nearly impossible. When the storm IMG_4522was approaching in a “cone of uncertainty” large enough to swallow the entire state, there was not enough of the following: gasoline, airline flights, bottled water, canned goods, plywood, tarps, batteries, flashlights, and sandbags (a 10 bag limit if you could wait for hours!)

 

We can do better; we’ve got to do better.

 

The Salt Life: Hurricane Irma and Us (by Sasha)

We are doing our best to prepare for Hurricane Irma now that she has decided to move to the West Coast of Florida. We are staying put and will check on the homes of our neighbors who have better sense than we do.

Jack has given new meaning to the term “repurposing.” What do you do when there is no plywood at Home Depot or anywhere for miles and you need to board up windows:  see what he’s done with our closet doors and fencing:

 

 

Many thanks to our son Jamison for the closet door idea; Jack lopped off the bottom and found a way to attach them. He is still pulling down a fence and fencing our windows in. All these years I’ve complained that our third garage has been converted to his woodworking shop…now I love it.

We have spent days searching for gasoline and bottles of water. Today almost every store along University Ave. was closed, so Kudos to BJs which stayed open until 2:00 today (Saturday) and had both fuel and water (and lots of wine,  yeah!) Driving home I came upon this sight driving East on University Parkway:

 

 

That’s right. The Military has arrived. Saw them turn from U. Ave to Longwood Run. Setting up a base perhaps? It should be comforting but it was scary to think we’ll need it.

And then there is stress, and not so much:

 

That’s our new puppy, a Havanese named Koda. True, our timing is off, but he is making us laugh through what looks to be a disaster in the making.

We have secured one of our bathrooms and hope to use it as a safe place if need be. Should be an interesting Sunday night…

We wish all of Sarasota–our friends, family, neighbors, and every resident–well. Be safe. If you are in need of anything and can come to our home or communicate with us, please do.

Love to all.

Salt Life: Rep. Buchanan’s Town Hall Meeting (by Sasha)

IMG_2861Although we registered online to attend Rep. Vern Buchanan’s March 18th town hall meeting, and therefore believed that we had reserved two seats, every seat in the hall was taken, and we were left standing outside the 1700 seat performing arts hall with 100s and 100s of others. But an outdoor speaker system broadcast the questions and answers from inside and so we stayed with the crowd, listened, and reacted.

Today’s Herald Tribune featured an article with the title “Buchanan wary of health plan.” Whether his office had salted the news or not, this article foreshadowed the issue that would dominate the questions: health care, and more specifically, the ramifications of overturning the Affordable Health Care Act (better known as Obamacare.) Buchanan suggested it was too early in the game, “just the third inning,” to know what the final health care product would be.

On the one hand, Buchanan seemed to know his constituents, vowing support for Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans Affairs, but on the other hand, we believe he has underestimated the anger among constituents that has energized them to become politically active and vocal as never before.

A telling theme was present in the questions asked by at least three people:  how can Buchanan, who is generally acknowledged by voters from both parties to be a person of integrity and decency, live with the contradiction of offering support to a president who lacks both attributes?

His  response was that people needed to give Trump a chance and it was too early to judge him. A majority of the outside crowd booed loudly in response; and the speaker system picked up on the same response from inside the hall.

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So how does one explain this contradiction? Does loyalty to party “trump” all other considerations? Is Buchanan really taking a wait and see strategy? Does he feel his seat is safe in 2018 and he need not engage in intra-party opposition?

Jack suggests another explanation: that Buchanan and other Republican members of Congress see an advantage in letting Trump be Trump. When the President draws attention to pseudo-issues, like the accusation that Obama had Trump’s phones “tapped” or that the media is the “enemy of the people,” attention is deflected away from an agenda with items that many Republicans actually do believe in and are actively pressing. There is the moral agenda that supports attacks on reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood, and the LGBT community. There is the national security agenda that is anti-immigrant and pro-military industrial complex. There is the economic agenda of protecting corporate interests, cutting programs that serve the poor, and undermining regulations (e.g., environmental protections) viewed as a hardship to business interests. And there is the conservative political agenda that big government must be dismantled to ensure “liberty.” With Trump and Bannon taking the heat, representatives can choose which of their pet issues to press forward.

So Buchanan’s “wait and see” approach sounds fair and cautious, even as the issues he does in fact support (like defunding Planned Parenthood and restricting immigration) move forward.

However, the majority of the crowd, ourselves included,  would have none of it. Basically, what we were telling Buchanan is that his “wait and see” approach makes him complicit–and therefore vulnerable in 2018.