PolitiFact Fl Takes On Claims About Fracking, Marijuana Candy

Oct 12, 2016

Fracking in Florida and marijuana-laced candy have become campaign fodder during this political season. So PolitiFact Florida's Josh Gillin has dug into these claims, and talks about these "half-truths" with WUSF's Steve Newborn.
 

The use of fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - as a relatively inexpensive way to drill for oil and gas has made the U.S. the world's largest producer of fossil fuels. But there's been concerns about it polluting ground water. There isn't much of that happening in Florida, but that hasn't prevented fracking from becoming a campaign issue.

A group supporting state Representative Dana Young, who's running for a new State Senate District in Hillsborough County, sent a mailer saying she "voted for a statewide fracking ban to protect our water."

The group, the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, paid for the mailpiece, but the mailer says that Young approved the message.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

HB 191, dubbed "Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources," was sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and passed 73 to 45 on Jan. 27 in the Florida House. Young voted in favor of this bill, along with 72 other Republicans, while 38 Democrats and 7 Republicans opposed the bill.

Young reasoned that HB 191 could have been the first step to a permanent ban on fracking. However, the bill only called for a temporary moratorium on the process, not a "ban" like her mailer says.

Democrats who voted against the bill echoed arguments of environmental groups and said a temporary ban doesn’t go far enough to protect Florida’s water.

Had the bill passed (it was defeated in a Florida Senate committee), the measure would have allowed Florida to regulate fracking — a process that involves pumping large amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to harness oil and gas reserves.

Per the bill, fracking permits would not have been issued until a study was completed in 2017 by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP would have proposed rules based on the study’s results, which would have been subject to approval of the Legislature.

Point being, the bill was never intended to ban fracking permanently, but place a moratorium on the practice while its effects were studied.

Democrats also took issue with the fact the bill would have prohibited Florida's counties and cities from passing local bans against fracking. According to the Miami Herald, 41 cities and 27 counties oppose fracking. St. Petersburg has passed a resolution against hydraulic fracturing, along with Broward County, which outlawed fracking in January.

Young’s office said she strongly opposes fracking in Florida and will continue to seek a statewide ban.

The bill would have authorized a study on which to base further regulation. It was not an outright ban on fracking.

Young’s claim is partially accurate but is missing context that would give the reader a different impression. For that reason, we rate Young’s statement Half True.

In our next segment, opponents of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment are warning that cannabis-enhanced edibles will endanger children, hoping that voters will eat up their dire predictions and reject the measure.

"Amendment 2 will bring kid-friendly pot candy to Florida," the anti-drug campaign Vote No On 2 said in a flier we received in the mail Sept. 22, 2016.

The campaign is run by the Drug Free Florida Committee, an anti-drug group started in 2014 by longtime GOP fundraiser Mel Sembler and his wife, Betty, with financial backing from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

But would Amendment 2 lead to "kid-friendly pot candy?"  Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

The patients would take their recommendations to what is referred to as a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center, which would be regulated by the state to provide the drug. Here’s where we get into Vote No On 2’s assertion about pot candy.

The amendment language says the following (emphasis ours):

" ‘Medical Marijuana Treatment Center’ (MMTC) means an entity that acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes (including development of related products such as food, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments), transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses, or administers marijuana, products containing marijuana, related supplies, or educational materials to qualifying patients or their caregivers and is registered by the Department."

So while the amendment doesn’t specifically mention candy, it does allow edibles. Proponents argue that edible forms of marijuana are better for some patients, in part because the effects can be longer-lasting than other methods of ingestion. That’s also part of the problem, because it can be difficult to gauge how the drug may affect people when eaten instead of smoked.

Vote No On 2 cites an uptick of children being hospitalized in many of those states for eating marijuana-laced candy, which they say is tempting to kids if left out. They pointed to several news stories about children in medical marijuana states consuming cookies, chocolate bars, brownies and other sweets and candies.

In some of their cases it wasn’t apparent if the candy was medical marijuana or from some other source.

That leaves us to look to see how other states handle guidelines about things like packaging and sales practices.

Washington, for example, bans products designed to appeal to kids. Connecticut requires tamper-resistant packages just like prescription drugs. California, which is phasing in new regulations, requires labels warning patients to keep products away from children. New Jersey only allows edibles in lozenge form, which were previously only available to child patients to take at school. (There’s an overview of guidelines for each state here.)

In Colorado, which started selling medical marijuana in 2001 and recreational marijuana in 2012, there has been an increase in the number of children hospitalized for ingesting marijuana. A spokeswoman for the state’s marijuana enforcement division acknowledged in 2014 that edible forms carry "a significant public safety risk."

Colorado this year banned some products shaped like people, fruit or animals. The state also requires opaque, tamper-resistant packaging and a label announcing the content of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The state also is starting to use a universal symbol designating a marijuana product.

That doesn’t mean kids don’t end up getting exposed to the drug. Mike Van Dyke, the chief of environmental epidemiology, occupational health and toxicology at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the state continues to adapt its packaging policies to make edible marijuana less accessible to children.

A Colorado report on the amount of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for marijuana exposure shows the number of affected children under 9  — when use is more likely to be accidental — has increased over the last 15 years. But Van Dyke says they still are small numbers. In 2000, prior to medical marijuana being legalized, only 1 child was hospitalized statewide. In 2014-15, there were 37 ER visits and 15 hospitalizations.

There’s also been an increase among people older than 9, too, but there are caveats to the data. Hospitals record these as exposures, but they don’t necessarily specify how patients were exposed, or if they were at the hospital because of the exposure or for a related issue.

The statement is partially accurate but requires additional context. We rate the statement Half True.