Stephen Nohlgren, Times Staff Writer

Stephen Nohlgren

Stephen writes about the Tampa Bay Rays' quest for a new baseball stadium, aging and other topics.

Phone: (727) 893-8442, or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8442

Email: nohlgren@tampabay.com

  1. Pinellas sheriff: Medical marijuana will bring problems similar to pill mills

    Elections

    SEMINOLE — Sheriff Bob Gualtieri helped Pinellas County struggle through the dark days of prescription drug "pill mills,'' when shady clinics doled out lethal opiates just for the asking.

    State and local authorities finally cracked down, but Gualtieri now fears that legalizing medical marijuana would reopen those floodgates with a new drug of choice.

    "We're going to be right back to the problems we just dealt with, with pill mills," he told an audience Thursday night at St. Petersburg College....

    Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri argues against the medical pot amendment in a panel discussion Thursday in Seminole.
  2. Cannabinoid receptor research outlines why pot may work as medicine

    Health

    Almost a decade ago, Palmetto resident Ryan Roman started using pot to cope with the effects of a rare spinal cancer that spread to his brain. Beating his doctors' predictions, the 31-year-old is still alive. He credits marijuana that he inhales through a vaporizer or ingests in concentrate form.

    Roman and other advocates view marijuana as almost a miracle plant, capable of treating a grab-bag of maladies like pain, MS, PTSD, nausea, skin cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease — sweeping claims reminiscent of old-time patent medicine hucksters....

    Ryan Roman 
of Palmetto has battled for nearly a decade a rare spinal cancer that has spread to his brain.
  3. Tampa Bay Rays fans facing more security checks

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Before entering Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays fan David Futral dug his keys and change from his pockets and set them in a red tray. He spread his arms and a security guard waved a wand that detects metal across his chest. He turned. The guard scanned his back. "They're more friendly at the airport," Futral, 58, joked with the guard as he fished his coins from the tray. "What, you're not going to leave your change?" the security guard joked back. ...

    Karen Vukcevic, 67, of Holiday screens Ed Hallock with a metal detector wand before the Tampa Bay Rays-Toronto Blue Jays game Thursday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Fans offered mixed reactions to the added security.
  4. No plans to raise Pinellas bed tax any time soon

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — By bringing in more than $30 million last year in bed taxes, Pinellas County earned the right to raise that tax from 5 percent to 6 percent.

    But don't look for that to happen any time soon.

    The Pinellas County and Tourist Development commissions — which jointly oversee the tax on hotel and motel stays — squelched any talk Tuesday of raising the levy now....

  5. Surveys yet to link medical marijuana and teen drug abuse

    Elections

    As the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida heats up, so too does an enduring worry about whether an herb intended for sick adults will end up harming teens.

    Evidence is mounting that heavy pot use among young teens can cause serious emotional and physical damage. The fear is that medical marijuana will boost pot consumption by making it more abundant and socially acceptable....

    Florida’s proposed constitutional amendment would allow sales only through licensed dispensaries. Experts say strict regulation would limit teen abuse.
  6. Fla's medical marijuana initiative no slam dunk

    Blog

    Medical marijuana enjoys broad backing in Florida, with polls in the past year indicating that 65 to 70 percent of voters support the idea.

    But passing a constitutional amendment to legalize medical pot may not be the cakewalk that such numbers suggest.

    Florida requires a 60 percent majority to amend the state Constitution. Older voters — who usually dominate turnout — favor medical marijuana, but not as strongly as younger voters do....

  7. Florida's medical marijuana amendment: No slam dunk (w/video)

    State Roundup

    Medical marijuana enjoys broad backing in Florida, with polls in the past year indicating that 65 to 70 percent of voters support the idea.

    But passing a constitutional amendment to legalize medical pot may not be the cakewalk that such numbers suggest.

    Florida requires a 60 percent majority to amend the state Constitution. Older voters — who usually dominate turnout — favor medical marijuana, but not as strongly as younger voters do....

    Gov. Rick Scott has said a ballot initiative is up to the voters. He opposes medical pot.
  8. Medical marijuana takes center stage at UT debate

    Politics

    TAMPA — Marijuana is not medicine, Dr. Eric Voth noted Monday night. Doctors cannot control the dose or its possibly toxic side effects, the internist told an audience at the University of Tampa gathered for a debate over medical marijuana.

    If it were called "Substance X," any doctor who told a patient to smoke it until they felt better would be committing malpractice, he said.

    Orlando attorney John Morgan took up the counterpoint, arguing that marijuana is a natural substance that can ease suffering for hundreds of thousands of Floridians....

    Kevin Sabet, director of the Institute on Drug Policy at the University of Florida, left, and Dr. Eric Voth make the argument against medical marijuana during Monday’s debate at the University of Tampa.
  9. Deep pockets and personal stories underpin Florida's medical marijuana push

    Politics

    Orlando lawyer John Morgan — he of billboard, television and Web ad fame — provided 80 percent of the funds needed to get medical marijuana on Florida's November ballot.

    But his were not the only deep pockets that came into play.

    A publicity-shy soap heiress contributed $260,000. A liquor store bigwig kicked in $50,000. And Florida was beginning to intrigue the biggest catch of all — billionaire pot enthusiast Peter Lewis — until he suddenly died in November....

    Billionaire Peter Lewis died in November and was waiting in the wings to aid the pot push.
  10. Rays stadium fans captivated by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's land

    Local Government

    TAMPA — As often as not, speculation about a downtown Tampa baseball stadium drifts to a possible dream team that combines a Wall Street mogul and a hedge fund guru.

    Stuart Sternberg owns the Tampa Bay Rays and would like to leave St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field. Jeff Vinik owns the Tampa Bay Lightning, leases the Tampa Bay Times Forum and is assembling acreage in the Channelside district....

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn
  11. Stairwell death trial judge seeks solution to juror silence

    Civil

    ST. PETERSBURG — A negligence trial in which all six jurors failed to reveal their own legal histories underscores a vexing problem during jury selection: How to probe for biases when potential jurors misunderstand legal terminology, grow weary of questioning and may turn against an overly nosy lawyer.

    Pinellas Judge Anthony Rondolino is facing the possibility of redoing a two-week trial over the death of a woman who fell down stairs at an assisted living home. This week, he threw out one idea that carries both symmetry and drama. After jury selection, let lawyers on both sides run background checks. Then air any problems just before revealing the verdict....

  12. Questions and answers about medical marijuana in Florida

    Politics

    Monday's Florida Supreme Court ruling puts medical marijuana on the November general election ballot. If the proposed constitutional amendment passes by at least 60 percent of the vote, state health officials will have to sort out many details before patients can legally obtain pot. Some specifics, however, are outlined in the proposed amendment. Here is what is known about how medical marijuana would work in Florida:...

    Under the proposed amendment to Florida’s Constitution, medical marijuana would be legal for people with debilitating conditions like cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Crohn’s disease.
  13. Medical marijuana to go to ballot, Florida Supreme Court rules

    Politics

    Floridians will vote on medical marijuana come November, after a divided Florida Supreme Court ruled Monday that ballot language for a proposed constitutional amendment meets all legal requirements.

    If at least 60 percent of voters agree, Florida could become the first Southern state to legalize use of marijuana for health-related reasons.

    The ballot measure could also affect the governor's race, with Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposed to the measure and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in favor....

  14. Medical marijuana advocates meet Florida ballot goal

    Courts

    A petition campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida has gathered enough signatures to put the issue on November's general election ballot.

    Just after noon Friday, county elections officials had validated 710,508 signatures — enough to force a vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the growth, sale and possession of marijuana for medical uses.

    The Florida Supreme Court could still reject the ballot language — and any vote along with it — but organizers expressed jubilation Friday that an expensive, last-minute push at least fulfilled the signature requirements for citizen-initiated amendments....

    Lawyer John Morgan says he has spent $4 million on the effort.
  15. Report shows biggest areas of confusion over Medicare

    Medicare

    Medicare can be confusing in dozens of ways — take doughnut holes, Special Needs Plans, PDP coverage, late enrollment penalties and Medigap A through N.

    Now, a study released Wednesday by the Medicare Rights Center zeroes in on the three most common issues that befuddle consumers.

    The center, a nationwide advocacy group, fielded more than 14,000 calls on its consumer help line in 2012. Questions about covering out-of-pocket expenses — representing 21 percent of the calls — were no surprise....