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Snowbirds Potential Partakers Of Medical Marijuana

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Sunshine and beaches are great attractions, but there could be another reason snowbirds flock to Florida if Amendment 2 passes: The availability of medical marijuana. Whether that happens depends on several unknowns as Florida heads into the last seven weeks before people vote on the question of legalizing medical pot. State and local tourism officials don't believe the amendment will have an effect on tourism if it passes. They say the impact on snowbird residents would be miniscule. They also say they have no intention of using medical marijuana as a marketing tool.

Others say it's too early to tell. "I'm a snowbird with pain associated with MS," said David Dillabough, of Syracuse, N.Y., who winters in St. James City. "I avoid hydrocodone, oxycodone and the like. Marijuana is my choice whenever I need a break from persistent pain. "Like other retired/older people, Florida is attractive to me because of the warmth and sunshine. Legalized medical marijuana wouldn't be the icing on the cake (that would be my friends), but it would be the flowers on the icing."

The state Department of Health financial analysis estimating the possible impact of the passage of Amendment 2 says snowbirds are a potential pool for medical marijuana tourism. "An estimated 17,178 to 41,271 may apply for an ID," the analysis says. That estimate has not been updated since the analysis was released in early November, said Phil E. Williams of the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research. However, the multistep process someone will have to go through to get an ID for medical pot would discourage shorter-duration visitors, the analysis says.

Timing
So far, 23 states and the District of Columbia have some form of legal medical marijuana program. Would ID cards issued to patients in other states that have legalized medical pot also be valid in Florida, or would only Florida residents qualify? The criteria is unclear. "The specific criteria would likely be up to the Department of Health through its rulemaking, or the Legislature as part of any implementing legislation, to determine whether ID cards from other states with the same physician certification requirements would be acceptable," Williams wrote in an email.

If the amendment passes, the effective date would be Jan. 1. The health department would have six months from that date to come up with rules; nine months to issue ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers; and nine months to register medical marijuana dispensaries. Tamara Pigott, executivwere director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said you have to remember tourists and snowbirds are two different things: Snowbirds are considered part-time residents who are here for a month or longer and often own property. Many snowbirds have established Florida residency, an attractive option because the state has no income tax. Tourists are short-term visitors.

Even if up to 41,000 snowbirds could apply for a medical pot ID, that number pales in the context of the actual numbers of state visitors, she said. Visitors reached 94.3 million last year according to Visit Florida, the state's official tourism and marketing entity, and the state is aiming for 100 million in 2014. One conference alone could bring in 40,000 people in a big city, Pigott said. "I don't anticipate that we would see a significant bump."

The legalization of medical marijuana might affect seasonal residents, said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau. "But it probably would not have much effect on short-term visitors, which is what we do and how we promote," he said. Snowbirds aren't even counted in their statistics, he said. "I guess we're going to watch it and see where it goes from here."

The tourism angle has not come up at Visit Florida, said Kathy Torian, spokeswoman. "It's not anything that's bubbled up through the industry or the board of directors." The topic is reminiscent of questions that arose about gaming and whether the legalization of gambling would be used as a marketing tool, she said. "The answer was no then, too." Florida has seasonal-related advertising campaigns trying to sell the whole state to a general audience, Torian said. "We never get down to the niche-type campaigns."

Elsewhere
Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry, agrees with Florida officials when it comes to tourism and medical marijuana. The reason is states that have legalized medical marijuana have a residency requirement, she said. However, one possible exception is that Nevada is planning to allow reciprocity in their medical program, so people who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients in other states can purchase medical marijuana in Nevada, she said.

"But that hasn't actually started yet, and it's still not going to create a tourism boom, since anyone it would affect is able to access medical marijuana in their home states already," West said. What about other states, like California and Colorado, where medical marijuana has been legalized? "Visit California has not done any research that specifically takes into account the legalization of medical marijuana," said spokeswoman Jennifer Sweeney.

Kirstin Graber, spokeswoman for the Colorado Tourism Office, said medical marijuana has not increased tourism, as an ID can only be obtained by Colorado residents. However, an amendment allowing adult use of recreational marijuana was put in place in Colorado on Jan. 1. The state's official statement on adult use reads "It is impossible to forecast how the law is impacting tourism."

However, West said legalization of marijuana for adult use has impacted Colorado tourism. California and Colorado tourism officials say neither legalized medical marijuana nor adult use marijuana will be used as a marketing tool to promote their states. Kathy Lowers of Naples said Amendment 2 will not make Florida a more attractive place to visit or live. Lowers, who has six children, said she moved here from California in part to avoid what she called the "sleaziness" of pot shops that popped up there.

"To me, if Florida goes the way of California, I will just be so depressed," she said. "I am not against medical marijuana, but against pot shops dispensing it. There is a big difference. "The Florida amendment is way more liberal than even the California one, so goodbye to family-friendly Florida," Lowers said. "People like me come here because it is more wholesome than other places; pot will ruin that benefit of visiting or living in Florida."



News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: News-press.com
Author: Mary Wozniak
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Website: Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana
 
I am under the impression Florida is pushing for CDB oil only, no buds to buy. I hope this gets changed. IMHO Florida will eventually have to loosen up or loose money. IE what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But of course this would never be worded this way.