Medical marijuana: State just says no to buds for vaping

Well, that didn’t take long.

In Florida’s quest to keep people from smoking medical marijuana, the state Department of Health ordered an operator to stop selling “whole-flower” products to be used in vaporizers, according to the News Service of Florida.

The Health Department sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trulieve after news reports in the last few days about the sales of the whole flower marijuana in pre-made cups to be used in its volcano vaporizing device.

Whole-flower is the natural form of the marijuana plant, the buds that recreational smokers traditionally have used for decades.

The fear among some was that the cups could easily be dismantled and the whole-flower marijuana smoked in pipes, bongs, or joints — not allowed for patients under Florida’s current medical-marijuana laws.

Only those with a doctor’s approval and on the state’s list can buy from Trulieve, which sells other cannabis products for vaping that is not whole-flower marijuana. It has five stores throughout the state and is one of a handful operating medical marijuana dispensaries currently.

“Licensed dispensing organizations have a responsibility to ensure their product is not one that can easily be transitioned into a smokable form. Therefore, whole flower products are not permitted,” state Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax wrote to Trulieve on Monday.

“Given the above facts, Trulieve is hereby ordered to immediately cease and desist sale of its Entourage product,” Bax wrote.

 

This all comes in front of the backdrop of the Legislature’s failure the last session to come up with a law to implement a constitutional amendment establishing medical marijuana in Florida approved by 72 percent of the voters last year.

The Health Department has to come up with rules governing new medical marijuana dispensaries by mid-summer and implemented by October.

Lawmakers have come up against smoking medical marijuana, saying it is unhealthy but John Morgan — the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled what was known as Amendment 2 — has pledged to sue the state over the smoking issue.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, in a statement, said the company was surprised by the letter but is “immediately and completely complying with the department’s wishes while evaluating our options.”

Rivers told the News Service last week she believed the product was legal and that her company had been selling whole-flower products for nearly a year.

Advocates, including Rivers, says vaping whole-flower marijuana creates an “entourage” effect that is better medicinally.

The benefits of medical cannabis include relief for chronic pain and muscle spasm. It relieves nausea during chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients. It also has been used for the treatment of Tourette’s syndrome, anorexia, arthritis, migraines, and glaucoma.

Other states, of course, allow the sale of whole-flower medical marijuana.

Whole-flower medical marijuana sold at a dispensary in California. Florida lawmakers don’t want such shops here, saying smoking medical cannabis is unhealthy. Photo: Jeff Ostrowski.

To read the whole News Service of Florida story click here.

 

Judge’s wife Elizabeth Savitt under investigation by new state guardianship office

Elizabeth Savitt, the former judge’s wife and professional guardian who has been the subject of numerous of complaints from families of incapacitated seniors, is being investigated by the state’s new Office of Personal and Professional Guardianship.

The agency is the state’s new watchdog for professional guardians and now has the power under rules adopted this legislative session to discipline them. If the investigation turns up wrongdoing, the penalty can include stripping Savitt of her registration with the state, which could stop her from serving as guardian.

The investigation remains confidential. It is unknown whether it emanates from one or multiple complaints. It could have been filed by a senior in guardianship, a relative or loved one. It could even have emanated from a member of the public or judiciary.

One complaint was filed by the attorney for Daniel Schmidt, the former Boca Raton resident who took care of one of Savitt’s wards, Carla Simmonds, a stroke victim.

Savitt resigned from the case after complaints surfaced when she tried to get a court to allow her access to the stroke victim’s $640,000 trust, which wasn’t part of the guardianship, and a $46,000 retirement account. Schmidt is still fighting attorney fees.

Schmidt said he hopes the complaint to the agency will “have Elizabeth Savitt eradicated from guardianship and to have criminal charges filed against her, her husband and her lawyers.”

Savitt – a tennis instructor by trade before becoming a guardian – has claimed she is being unfairly targeted by disgruntled members of families of those in her guardianships. She has pointed out she has never been removed from a guardianship case by a judge, though she has resigned from them as criticism mounted.

The Palm Beach Post reported on numerous complaints from families about Savitt in its series Guardianship: A Broken Trust in January 2016. More complaints have surfaced since then.

Savitt’s husband, former Circuit Judge Martin Colin, retired last year after the series spelled out his conflict of interest because of his wife’s work as a guardian. Colin and Savitt’s finances were replete with foreclosures, liens, and unpaid debts before she became a guardian in 2011.

The Palm Beach Post is working on a more in-depth piece on the Savitt investigation by the new guardianship office that will run in the print and web editions on Saturday.

 

 

Jupiter Medical wins battle with Legislature over deregulation

Jupiter Medical Center took out full-page ads in this newspaper and others and lobbied lawmakers to keep them from changing the rules on hospital expansion. From the result, it worked.

The Florida Legislature failed to pass one of Gov. Rick Scott’s pet bills that would have eliminated the certificate of need process. Under the certificate of need process, hospitals must show a significant need for the community to expand or move into specialized practice areas.

“The organization’s effort among others played a part in it not coming to a vote in the Senate,” said John Couris, the president and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center.

Thus, Florida remains one of 36 states and the District of Columbia that currently limit entry or expansion of health care facilities through certificate-of-need programs. In Florida, this process extends to acute hospital beds to organ transplants to psychiatric services.

Gov. Scott and House Republicans said getting rid of the certificate of need process would open up competition and lower prices.

But Jupiter Medical Center and other critics said deregulation would actually do the opposite by benefiting big hospital chains who could dictate higher prices and undercut patient pool are that is crucial for doctors to perfect their skills.
Couris said the open letter to the community published in full-page advertisements showed the hospital’s commitment to top-notch care. He said competition is already off-the-charts when it comes to certain areas of medicine, such as heart surgery and maternity care.

“We compete every day in healthcare. South Florida is a hyper-competitive market,” he said. “We were concerned for the consumer, for access, quality and cost.”
Couris reiterated that he isn’t against the free market but when it comes to health care appropriate regulation is necessary. Certificate of need “is appropriate regulation and it works,” he said.

The Legislature also let a bill die when the session ended Friday that would have expanded the number of trauma care centers in Florida. Critics had the same worries that the measure would undercut patient pools and thus hurt performance at existing trauma care centers.
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County monitored the progress of both bills.

Currently, Delray Beach Medical Center and St. Mary’s Medical operate Level-1 trauma centers. Both hospitals opposed plans by JFK Medical Center in Atlantis to get into the trauma business last year.

Robin Kish of the Health Care District released a statement on the issue:

“Our position remains constant,” she said. “The Health Care District, which oversees the county’s integrated, lifesaving Trauma System, treated more than 4,000 trauma patients in 2016 and we are committed to delivering the highest quality care so traumatically-injured patients can return to their daily lives.”

 

John Couris, president and CEO, of Jupiter Medical Center.

Advocates: Disabled take huge hit under GOP health reform

Advocates for the disabled say the House Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act seriously threatens some of the most vulnerable Americans.

The website DisabilityScoop reports that advocates say the bill threatens home- and community-based services and other supports that people with developmental disabilities rely upon.

Photo: Joshua Zader/Creative Commons

“The American Health Care Act shows callous and dangerous disregard for the well-being of people with disabilities and their families and erases decades of progress,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, an organization that service people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The House passed the bill 217 to 213, allowing President Donald Trump and Republicans to do a victory lap that they had finally succeeded in destroying Obamacare. The measure though was roundly criticized by doctors, hospital and senior groups. It must still pass the U.S. Senate, which gave it a lukewarm response and promised to address its more draconian measures.

While the disabled take a hit, the most wealthiest Americans are big winners with the new legislation as it delivers a big tax cut the would redistribute billions of dollars to the upper tier.

 

How does it hurt the disabled? The many groups who represent them say the bill would institute a per capita cap for Medicaid. This means the federal government would offer a fixed amount of money for each beneficiary.

“These huge cuts and caps will likely put pressure on states to cut home- and community-based waiver services, especially those that are ‘optional,’ like personal care services and therapies,” said Kim Musheno, chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition of disability advocacy groups.

Schools also would be affected by the Medicaid shift because they are currently able to seek reimbursement for a variety of services provided to disabled children to a tune of $4 billion annually. That means money to reimburse schools for speech and occupational therapy, specialized playground equipment, and even wheelchairs is now in jeopardy.

Advocates for the disabled say House Republicans would allow states to no longer consider schools as eligible Medicaid providers.

To read all of the story by DisabilityScoop click here.

 

In the midst of heroin epidemic, enters new drug dubbed ‘Grey Death’

Florida, shaken to the core by an unprecedented heroin overdose epidemic, may now have to grapple with a brand new deadly opioid mixture dubbed “Grey Death” that utilizes several opioids and looks like concrete.

Mixing  opioids are not new, but West Palm Beach CBS affiliate, Channel 12, calls this particular concoction “the deadliest drug yet.”  It’s already killed people in Georgia and Alabama and it’s heading our way.

When it comes to designer drugs, Martin County seems to be a magnet and Sheriff William Snyder is well aware.

In August, a 19-year-old man high on a bath salt-like drug smashed through the front plate-glass window of a family’s Stuart home and attacked two people, police said.

Snyder says Grey Death looks consists of heroin, fentanyl and other opioids.

“They don’t call it gray death for any other reason other than the fact that it can definitely cause death,” Sheriff Snyder told CBS12.com.

“My prayer is that we never see it here, my expectation is the likelihood is we will see it here in Martin County,” Sheriff Snyder said.

The new drug mixture can be injected, smoked, snorted or swallowed. Snyder has ordered special gear for his deputies when they encounter Gray Death and other strong opioids that can be deadly simply by touching it.

“They will be able to cover all their body, hands, and feet and it will protect them so when they come out of that scene they can take it off, decontaminate and be safe,” Sheriff Snyder said

Read The Palm Beach Post’s coverage of designer drugs by clicking here and the heroin epidemic by clicking here.

 

More Americans suffering untreated mental illness, study finds

Feeling like there’s a little more mental illness out there in America these days? You are correct.

According to a new study published Monday in the journal Psychiatric Services,  Americans are more stressed, depressed and anxiety-ridden.

And even worse news is that many are unable to get the services they desperately need.

Judith Weissman is a research manager in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and lead researcher of an evaluation of federal health data.

“Mental illness is on the rise. Suicide is on the rise. And access to care for the mentally ill is getting worse,” she said.

About 3.4 percent of the U.S. population — an estimated 8.3 million American adults —  suffer from serious psychological distress Previous estimates put the number of Americans suffering from serious psychological distress at 3 percent or less, the researchers said.

Much of the distress, Weissman said, is an after-effect of the Great Recession that began in late 2007 and caused long-term emotional damage to many Americans.

Because of the Great Recession, more Americans needing psychological or psychiatric services have gone without.

“The recession seemed to have pushed the mentally ill to a point where they never recovered,” she said. “This is a very disturbing finding because of the implications of what mental illness can do to a person in terms of their ability to function and their life span.”

The study included national health data from a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 35,000 households nationwide participate each year.

“We need to increase access to care for the mentally ill,” Weissman told CBS. “We also need to put trained psychiatrists and mental health providers within the primary care setting.”