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Politics

Backroom Briefing: Name-Dropping in Pursuit of Pot

July 2, 2014 - 6:00pm

Florida's new medical-marijuana law is creating a fierce competition to get in bed with one of 46 eligible nurseries.

Ultimately, the state will hand out only five licenses for operations that will grow, compound and dispense a type of marijuana that supporters say will not get users high but will help patients such as children who have a severe form of epilepsy.

The wide-open field has attracted "ganjapreneurs" who are making promises to the nurserymen that sound too good to be true, including claims to have an in with Gov. Rick Scott's administration.

Ryan Scotson and Matt Anderson, managers of "Medical Cannabis Cultivation Inc.," have been making the rounds, telling potential investors and growers they have ties to Scott through their connections with Frank Kruppenbacher and Billy Rubin.

Kruppenbacher is a prominent Orlando attorney and Scott fundraiser who serves as chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. Rubin is one of the lobbyists closest to Scott.

In an e-mail to Kerry Herndon, owner of Kerry's Nursery in Apopka, Scotson identified Kruppenbacher as the chief executive officer of MC2 and Rubin as its lobbyist.

Kruppenbacher and Rubin denied their connections to the company.

"They have no in with the governor's office at all. Absolutely zilch. Period. End of topic. It's comical to hear that," Kruppenbacher said.

Kruppenbacher said Scotson is the father of his daughter's child and attributed Scotson's claims to "a lot of youthful exuberance."

Rubin said he knew the men but had told them he did not want to do business with them.

"Everybody who applies is going to know somebody who knows somebody. But this is going to be very scrutinized at all levels," he said.

Scotson would not comment on his relationship with Rubin and Kruppenbacher or on reports that he had used ties with Scott's office to strike deals with growers and investors.

"Our goal is to make our application stronger than anybody else's in the state," he said.

Knox Nursery owner Bruce Knox said he also met with Scotson.

"We have talked to a lot of people. The pitch that these guys are making is not dissimilar to the pitch that everybody else makes," he said.

TONYA WHO?

This year's race for governor has been a constant reminder that politics makes strange bedfellows. After all, Democrats who spent years blasting former Gov. Charlie Crist when he was a Republican are now applauding him as the front-runner for their party's nomination.

Another reminder came Tuesday, when former Attorney General Bill McCollum endorsed Scott and ripped Crist for refusing to release his wife's tax returns.

"Gov. Crist always was proud to be known as 'Mr. Open Government,'" McCollum said in a statement released by Scott's campaign. "I find his recent refusal to release his and his spouse's tax returns very surprising and disappointing."

McCollum's statement made a passing reference to the 2010 GOP primary between McCollum and Scott, which the former attorney general called "a very close and hard fought primary." That's one way of putting it.

In that race, the two traded shots about one of Scott's companies, Solantic. The Florida Democratic Party this week gleefully emailed reporters a link to a Miami Herald video of a Scott press conference from that time period.

Scott, on McCollum: "In short, Bill McCollum is the Tonya Harding of Florida politics. Bill McCollum says in one of his negative ads that no one has ever questioned his integrity. Well, Bill McCollum, I am clearly questioning your integrity today. ... Now in a desperate attempt to revive his dying campaign and keep his government job, Bill McCollum has unleashed a smear campaign that would impress Obama and the Chicago political machine."

At the time, McCollum was also pushing to get Scott to release a deposition in a lawsuit against Solantic. Here's some of what McCollum campaign manager Matt Williams said: "If Rick Scott won't come clean with Florida voters now, how can he be trusted to lead the fourth largest state in the nation during these challenging economic times."

ROE V. WADE AND TAXES

Crist, meanwhile, was interviewed this week by Ed Schultz on MSNBC and tried out an explanation for why his wife, Carole, doesn't have to release her taxes. In a unique twist, Crist's statement echoed almost word-for-word Democrats' arguments when it comes to abortion.

"Women have a right to choose, Ed. And my wife is included in that category. She has the right to choice. And it's her decision to make," Crist said.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "Fundraising emails to end this month are unbelievable. I bet I've gotten 40 requests today alone." -- Rep. Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis), R-Panama City,

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