“There is no correlation between Morgan & Morgan and the medical marijuana,” Stumbo spokesman Brian Wilkerson said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo pitching personal-injury law firm in TV commercials

By John Cheves — jcheves@herald-leader.com

 

 

 

House Speaker Greg Stumbo has accepted a position as partner at Morgan & Morgan, a Florida-based personal-injury law firm whose founder, John Morgan, is a major financial backer of the movement to legalize medical marijuana.

In September, Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, announced that he wants a debate in Kentucky about legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

"I am open and leaning toward supporting the use of medical marijuana as I read more and more research," Stumbo said on Sept. 24.

Through a spokesman, Stumbo this week said he came to his stand on medical marijuana after speaking to Floyd County constituents who support it.

"There is no correlation between Morgan & Morgan and the medical marijuana," Stumbo spokesman Brian Wilkerson said.

John Morgan, a Lexington native who moved to Orlando, Fla., in 1971, gave $250,000 over the summer to People United For Medical Marijuana and produced several commercials to support the effort. He expects to give several million dollars more, he said this week.

On his firm’s website, Morgan wrote that medical marijuana helped his father while he was dying from cancer and emphysema.

"Medical marijuana has been proven to give our loved ones relief they need, helping with pain, appetite, seizures and spasms," Morgan says in a radio commercial he recently produced in Florida. "Unfortunately, Tallahassee politicians refused to vote on the issue last session. They wouldn’t even hear testimony from patients and their families."

In an interview, Morgan said he’s glad to hear about Stumbo’s public comments on medical marijuana, but he’s not the impetus.

"Greg and I have never talked about it, but I’m spending a boatload of money to get it on the ballot in Florida this fall," Morgan said. "Now that I know he feels this way, maybe we can do something in Kentucky, too."

Steve Robertson, chairman of the Kentucky Republican Party, was ready to draw the opposite conclusion.

"We at least now know that Stumbo bases his public positions on his private finances," Robertson said. "After standing in opposition to the hemp bill, it’s mind-boggling that he’d suddenly turn around and advocate for medical marijuana based on his new job."

During the 2013 legislative session, Stumbo criticized and worked against — though he ultimately voted for — a bill that established a licensing system for Kentucky hemp farmers if the federal government decriminalizes that plant, a close relative to marijuana. Stumbo said he agreed with police officers who argued that hemp and marijuana crops could be confused, making their jobs more difficult.

Later this year, Stumbo went to work for Morgan & Morgan. He recently began starring in television commercials for the firm, which employs 240 lawyers in a half-dozen states, including former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

"I’m Greg Stumbo of Morgan & Morgan," Stumbo says in a 30-second spot currently airing on Lexington stations. "As attorney general of Kentucky, I was honored to be your personal attorney."

Stumbo, who was attorney general from 2003 to 2007, goes on to tell viewers: "The insurance company doesn’t have your family’s best interest at heart. We do. Call us."

Speaking Wednesday, Morgan explained the hire: "Stumbo is a consumer advocate. That’s what he’s done both professionally and politically. He knows his way around Kentucky and he’s obviously well-known among his peers."

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/10/17/2881362/house-speaker-greg-stumbo-pitching.html#storylink=cpy

St. Petersburg marijuana grow house charges dropped; others may follow

St. Petersburg marijuana grow house charges dropped; others may follow

By Stephen Nohlgren, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

LARGO — Amid allegations that narcotics deputies trespassed and lied to gather evidence, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that it is dismissing charges against an accused St. Petersburg marijuana grower and will reconsider dozens of similar cases.

The dropped case was against David Cole, 60, who said he was growing pot in his shed to treat his multiple sclerosis symptoms.

His attorneys were scheduled Tuesday to grill a key deputy under oath about possible misconduct within the narcotics unit. But that opportunity evaporated along with the case.

"Information came to light Friday that calls into question the veracity of those involved in making that case to the point where I believe the right thing to do is to have that case dismissed,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said on Tuesday.

Gualtieri would not give more details because his internal affairs office is now investigating how the Cole case and others stemming from the two-year surveillance of a Largo hydroponics store were handled.

Sworn search warrant applications by deputies Paul Giovannoni and Michael Sciarrino — the lead detectives in the grow house cases — said they could smell indoor pot farms from public sidewalks and neighbors’ yards. But defense attorneys think that the two deputies and at least one supervisor trespassed to get their information, which is illegal.

Neither Gualtieri nor Beverly Andringa, executive assistant state attorney, could pinpoint Tuesday how many grow house cases are in jeopardy, saying only that they number in the dozens.

"We need to look at them all,” Gualtieri said. "Because the information we have goes to general veracity. Once there is that allegation, then it touches anything that certain people may have touched.”

Giovannoni and Sciarrino declined to comment.

Cole said he was relieved to have the charges dropped. He was caught with 87 plants at varying stages of growth and acknowledges that medical marijuana is illegal in Florida. He had no criminal history in Florida and says his attorney advised that he probably could have plea bargained for nothing more than probation as punishment.

But when he heard the deputies might have trespassed and lied about it, Cole said, he told his attorney to reject any plea bargain and use his case to pressure the Sheriff’s Office for answers. He was particularly angered by concrete blocks stacked in stair-step fashion on his neighbor’s property next to his fence. Cole thinks officers might have put them there to vault his fence.

"We have to make sure that the people we employ for our protection acted appropriately,” Cole said Tuesday. "That’s more important to me than what happens to me.”

Cole’s case is where Tuesday’s canceled deposition of former narcotics deputy Kyle Alston came in.

Alston had already been deposed in February, in a Tarpon Springs grow house case. Defense lawyer Newt Hudson asked if Alston had ever seen Sciarrino and Giovannoni "climb over fences,” shorthand for trespassing.

Alston refused to answer.

Hudson is now trying to use this refusal, along with other information, to have his Tarpon Springs client’s search warrant thrown out, killing any prosecution.

Hudson also alerted other grow house lawyers, some of whom are sharing information and call themselves the Scent of Justice Gang in mocking reference to the marijuana sniffing.

Clearwater lawyer Douglas deVlaming scheduled Alston to give testimony in Cole’s case on Tuesday, this time with a judge standing by to rule on whether Alston had to answer questions.

"We believe Kyle Alston was going to come in and testify to the truth . . . that these guys were jumping fences,” deVlaming said Tuesday. "And I also believe Kyle Alston has told that to internal affairs.”

Alston declined to comment.

DeVlaming applauded the sheriff and the state attorney for re-evaluating all the grow house prosecutions but said defense lawyers will continue to subpoena Alston for testimony in other cases as long as any charges are pending.

DeVlaming also said State Attorney Bernie McCabe should convene a grand jury to examine the grow house cases, or federal prosecutors should weigh in.

"We want to have confidence that we can trust police officers,” deVlaming said, "and quite frankly, dropping cases and throwing a few underlings under the bus isn’t going to cut it with us.”

Gualtieri estimated it would take about three weeks to complete an internal affairs investigation.

"I met with my captain this morning. We are trying get it done fairly, but also as quickly as possible,” Gualtieri said. "I don’t want a rush to judgment.”

Besides re-evaluating pending grow house cases, both he and Andringa said they will also examine investigative techniques on cases recently resolved through plea bargains or convictions.

"Many (cases) may be involved before it is all said and done.” Gaultieri said. "Many may go.”

Information about alleged trespassing surfaced in the last few weeks, he said. Cole’s case was one of several under scrutiny when deVlaming subpoenaed Alston for deposition.

The timing of Tuesday’s scheduled deposition accelerated the decision to drop Cole’s charges, Gualtieri said.

"Depending on what questions are asked in deposition it could frustrate our investigation because (defense lawyers) don’t know what we know,” Gualtieri said. "They don’t know where we are going and what we need to do. That could cause information to get out and affect other witnesses in this investigation.”

That argument is not swaying defense attorneys to back off.

Clearwater lawyer Bjorn Brunvand said he will seek an expedited deposition in the next few days of Alston, Gualtieri and a Progress Energy Florida employee who helped officers find out how much power grow house suspects were using.

"I would not be surprised if the same thing happened in my case,” Brunvand said, referring to charges against Cole being dropped.

Largo lawyer John Trevena said complaints against the grow house deputies date back to 2008. One client was caught with 93 plants and sentenced to three years in prison after a detective secured a search warrant by stating that he could smell marijuana from a sidewalk.

Trevena said he had a National Weather Service meteorologist ready to testify that the wind was blowing away from the detective that night, but nobody in the court system would listen.

He will also seek depositions if his clients’ cases aren’t resolved, Trevena said. "I am not going to let my clients’ futures rely on (the sheriff’s) investigation. I am going to conduct my own investigation.”

Stephen Nohlgren can be reached at (727) 893-8442 or nohlgren@tampabay.com.

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Marijuana Smuggler Who Served 30 Years in Prison Wants to Convince Florida Old Folks to Support Medical Marijuana

 

damn-right-old-guy-in-a-wheelc

 

Lucy Steigerwald | March 16, 2012

Robert Platshorn is against the war on drugs; so much so that he spent 5k on two pro-pot billboards. The 69-year-old director of Florida National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) did so as part of "The Silver Tour," which is a campaign to convince senior citizens in South Florida that medical marijuana is a good thing.

Platshorn is a rare senior citizen indeed. Seniors (Florida has lots of ’em!) are credited as the reason for the failure of California’s Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative. And in in general, older populations do frown on legalization. Gallup in 2011 charted 39 percent of folks 65 and older as in support of legalization of marijuana; compare that to the 62 percent support from those aged 18-29. The thing about Platshorn, though, is that he spent much of his time in those younger, more pro-pot demographics in prison. In 2008, Platshorn finished out a 30-year term for marijuana smuggling as part of the "Black Tuna Gang."

As part of the Silver Tour, Platshorn put up two billboards in support of medical marijuana, one of which is to the right. They will run for a month.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Down the road apiece, just after a billboard advertising a service for clogged drains, stands the second big sign. "Reschedule Medical Marijuana" it reads. Below it is a quote from former administrative Judge Francis L. Young’s ruling about pot in a 1988 case: "One of the Safest Therapeutically Active Substances Known to Man."

The billboards urge viewers — some 54,500 cars pass that section of Sample Road daily, according to the state Department of Transportation — to learn more at The Silver Tour, the billboards’ sponsor.

Platshorn surely is not the most sympathetic face of the pro-legalization movement, at least not to those on the fence about the issue, but it’s cool that he’s now taking the slow and sneaky path to convince those most skeptical.

Here’s a sampling of a Miami Herald article written on the occasion of the former drug-smuggler’s release from jail. The implication seems to be that weed trafficking was a gentleman’s game in the 1970s. He was, after all, non-violent:

This was just business, and good business wasn’t violent, not in the mid-Seventies, when Platshorn ran his transcontinental racket. Marijuana suppliers were family-run enterprises mediated by political figures and local law enforcement intent on keeping a lid on the trade while lining their own pockets. And he trusted his partners. They were his stoner buddies, and he knew they’d come through for him.

"It was a hippie era," Plat­shorn says. "You tell a guy you’ll pay him $1 million, you pay him."

Those were the years before the cocaine blizzard swallowed South Florida, and Platshorn was just an entrepreneurial pothead leading the 007 existence he’d always dreamed of — and smoking some really good weed while he was at it.

Back in Florida, he had a handful of yachts at his disposal. From a posh suite at theFontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, he operated an auto auction, a marina club, and a barbershop. He used canal-front stash houses and wore stylish plaid leisure suits with broad collars as sharp as spearheads….

Platshorn and friends would be accused of smuggling, or at least attempting to smuggle, 500 tons of marijuana into the United States during the mid- to late Seventies. When the gang was busted in September 1978, the DEA proclaimed it the most sophisticated drug ring it had ever encountered.

Platshorn’s 1980 conviction was a major coup for drug enforcement agencies, the first join FBI/DEA enterprise. In all, eight of the gang’s central members were convicted in two federal trials, but the leaders — Platshorn and Robert Meinster — would pay the stiffest price: prison sentences totaling 108 years between them.

The rest here.

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