SEMINOLE — Peggy Alcorn, a 68-year-old retiree, exercises every day in her swimming pool. • She hangs onto the edge for an hour — bouncing, swaying, kicking and singing to a mix of 1980s hits streaming from her computer. Every 15 minutes or so, she picks up a pipe and takes a few puffs of pot. • Alcorn has multiple sclerosis. She says marijuana has eased her symptoms dramatically. And she hopes that — come Nov. 4 — she will no longer have to worry about breaking the law. • On that day, voters will decide whether to amend Florida's Constitution to allow marijuana use for medical purposes....
Humans have cultivated marijuana for thousands of years — using fiber for cloth, oil for food, smoke for ceremonies and chemicals for medicine.
Scientists know that compounds found in pot can alter physical and mental functions, lending credence to sick people who say marijuana alleviates their symptoms.
But marijuana — especially in its smoked form — carries risk....
Floridians will decide Nov. 4 whether to add medical marijuana to the state Constitution, testing if a cultural change fostered in the liberal West and Northeast can penetrate the South.
Hundreds of small studies have shown that pot holds potential for lessening pain, stimulating appetite, fighting nausea, alleviating movement disorders and slowing the spread of some types of cancer.
But that science is not a slam dunk argument for passing Florida's proposed Amendment 2. ...
In a finding that could ripple through Florida, a study released this week reported that the average number of narcotic painkiller overdoses in medical marijuana states is 25 percent lower than would be expected if pot use weren't legal.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated a reduction of about 1,700 overdoses in 2010 in the 13 states that had medical marijuana systems up and running then....
ST. PETERSBURG — Amid much fanfare two years ago, developer Darryl LeClair unveiled bold plans for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium at Carillon Business Park in the Gateway area.
It offered a St. Petersburg solution to the team's pleas for a new stadium, and it was about 15 minutes closer to Tampa than Tropicana Field.
But no one from the Rays ever approached LeClair, who is close to giving up on his dream of building a mixed-use stadium, office and residential project on 16 acres he owns south of Ulmerton Road....
Trial lawyer John Morgan — whose outsized persona is already etched onto Florida's consciousness — said medical marijuana has boosted his celebrity even higher.
At the Orlando airport last week, eight to 10 people stopped him between the plane and his car to thank him for bankrolling the constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, Morgan said. "Two or three wanted to have their pictures taken with me."...
About every sixth homeless person in Pinellas County is a veteran. And for the third year in a row, the Department of Veterans Affairs is sending money to the St. Vincent de Paul Society to bring those numbers down.
The VA announced Monday it will funnel $1.5 million through St. Vincent de Paul for Pinellas vets, and a like amount for Hillsborough County, trying to keep roofs over the heads of 800 veterans and their families....
07/31/14 The Heater
ST. PETERSBURG — Pitching ace David Price is gone, closing a memorable era for the Rays. The debate about Tropicana Field isn't going anywhere.
A day before Price was traded to the Tigers, Rays manager Joe Maddon set the stage with familiar team refrain: The Trop causes poor attendance, poor attendance lowers payroll, lower payrolls force the team to part ways with favorite players....
07/28/14 State Roundup
With tolerance for marijuana increasing around the country, a poll released Monday indicates that Florida may not lag far behind.
According to the Quinnipiac University poll, 88 percent of Florida voters now would allow use of marijuana for medical purposes — broad support that cuts across age, gender and political lines. That is up from 82 percent support that Quinnipiac reported in November....
Floridians will vote Nov. 4 on a constitutional amendment that would legalize possession and sale of marijuana for medical purposes. Patients would need a doctor's certification that they have a debilitating illness or condition.
Polls indicate broad support, but Amendment 2 must pass by 60 percent or more to succeed. Here are questions and answers about medical marijuana and how the system would work. Watch for updates and additional answers as the election nears....
Floridians will vote Nov. 4 on whether to legalize medical marijuana. What could it mean for patients, the health care industry and the burgeoning pot industry if the required 60 percent of voters say yes to pot? Here are some key facts to keep in mind:
1) Nobody will be buying or selling legal medical pot in Florida until late 2015 or early 2016
Amendment 2 gives the Florida Department of Health until early July to establish regulations to make the system work. The department then has until early October to license the first Medical Treatment Centers. Until then, no one can start growing, much less selling. The first harvest might not come in until late 2015 or beyond. Regulations may forbid Treatment Centers from importing pot from other states or countries for resale. And even if Florida does allow that, postal regulations. airline rules and state laws probably would make importation impractical. Imagine a truck full of pot driving from Colorado to Florida. If it gets stopped in Arkansas, authorities will not care that the pot is legal in both Colorado and Florida. Buyers probably will have to await the first harvest....
ST. PETERSBURG — Jurors who withhold information about their own legal history have always messed up trials. If a juror withholds important facts that bias them, the losing side sometimes finds out and gets a new trial.
Now, online searches let lawyers learn about jurors with ease and root out biases before trials begin. Maybe, a Pinellas judge has declared, it's time to change the rules....
06/27/14 Local Government
Just as residents use low interest rates to refinance their homes, the city of St. Petersburg hopes to shift debt on Tropicana Field to save a little bundle.
"The details are not completely set,'' finance director Anne Fritz said Friday, "but we hope to save over $1 million."
The Trop, built in 1986, has been financed and refinanced over the years through several long-term bond issues. The smallest, which runs through 2026, is covered by a $2 million annual payment to St. Petersburg from the state of Florida. That's the debt the city hopes to refinance....
Two decades ago, a husband-wife team of Miami lawyers took a David and Goliath swipe at Big Tobacco, filing a class-action suit on behalf of 500,000 Floridians.
"Every family member, every fellow trial lawyer told us we would go down the tubes,'' says Stanley Rosenblatt. But he had questioned industry CEOs before and "I had developed a real distaste for them,'' he says. "I didn't like what they had done to the American people, and I thought we would have some fun.''...
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a tobacco industry appeal Monday in Florida litigation that stretches back almost two decades.
With billions of dollars potentially at stake, hundreds of Florida smokers and their families can still press forward with lawsuits over cancer, emphysema and other maladies.
According to one Wall Street analyst, Florida litigation is one of Big Tobacco's two largest areas of legal exposure....