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Florida FlagLAKEWOOD RANCH -- Entrepreneurs like Jaime DiDomenico, owner of Sarasota-based Cool Today, have hard questions about the state constitutional amendment that would allow medical marijuana in Florida.

Will it make their liability insurance go up? Will they be able to keep medical marijuana users off their workforce?

Though such inquiries abound, there were more questions than answers that came out of a Wednesday forum titled "How Will Amendment 2 Impact Your Business?"

The event, sponsored by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, devolved into a debate over the merits and pitfalls of the proposed amendment that will be voted on statewide on Nov. 4.

"We have over 150 employees," DiDimenico said. "We have over 100 on the road. We are working with electrical, climbing ladders, working with cranes.

"As a business owner, my biggest fear is having somebody injured or killed, or somebody injuring or killing somebody, and then being under the influence."

A panel comprising Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube; Matthew D. Westerman, a labor law attorney at the Blalock Walters P.A. firm; Dr. Jessica Spencer, state coalition director for Vote No on 2; David Wright, president and CEO of Lakewood Ranch medical marijuana start-up AltMed LLC; and Richard S. Thompson, a Zenith Insurance executive, had few concrete answers.

Westerman wondered what would happen in the wake of passage if a worker with a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana becomes aware he is about to lose his or her job for not performing, or for lateness?

"I can see a lot of litigation coming out of the Florida Civil Rights Act," Westerman said.

Thompson said he doesn't believe much change ultimately will come about in the insurance arena.

"It is conceivable that we may be providing marijuana under a worker's compensation claim? Yes it is," he said.

Zenith executives in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, however, say there has been no substantive spike in workers compensation costs connected with cannabis.

But DiDomenico remains perplexed — and worried.

His biggest costs — and ones that can vary greatly — are liability and legal expenses, he said.

"This is an amendment to the Florida constitution with fairly thin language, and we are going to interpret and legislate and adjudicate that amendment of the backs of business."

AltMed's David Wright countered the amendment would be aimed at treating people with debilitating conditions — not those doing manual and technical heating and air conditioning work.

Steube, however, isn't so sure. He warns the open-ended language could allow marijuana treatment for a wide array of ailments.

"It could be back pain, it could be neck pain, it could even be menstrual cramps," he said.

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Protect your business. Call Prestige Insurance Group, Inc. at (305) 969-3776 for more information on Florida business insurance.

(Article courtesy: Michael Pollick via Herald-Tribune)
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