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Wednesday's Daily Pulse

Florida law limiting medical marijuana companies ruled unconstitutional

Florida’s law governing the growth, processing and distribution of cannabis and related products created an “oligopoly” and runs afoul of a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, an appellate court has ruled. The 1st District Court of Appeal’s decision sent shockwaves through the state’s rapidly growing medical marijuana industry, in which licenses are routinely selling for upwards of $50 million. More from the Orlando Sentinel, the Tampa Bay Times, and the Miami Herald.

A state long linked to oranges looks to a lucrative future — with hemp

Citrus is an industry fighting for survival. Yet Nikki Fried, Florida's agriculture commissioner, sees something else: opportunity. And not just here but across Florida, wherever nature and disease have taken a serious toll on crops and commodities. Her solution is hemp. “Hemp can help,” Fried says. In a state inextricably linked to the orange — the fruit that adorns its license plates and the juice that it offers visitors at welcome centers — such prophecy might once have been considered heresy. [Source: Washington Post]

Florida Trend Exclusive
PARC Group developing eTown, a zero-energy-ready master-planned community

The PARC Group has begun developing eTown, a master-planned community in south Jacksonville. With half its acreage set aside as a reserve, eTown will include walking trails, paths for electric carts and about 1,400 homes in neighborhoods named after famous inventors. Among the neighborhoods: Kettering, a collection of 40 to 50 homes that will be marketed as zero-energy-ready, meaning efficient enough for their annual electricity use to be offset by rooftop solar panels. [Source: Florida Trend]

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announces $29 million in infrastructure grants to 10 airports in Florida

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will award $477 million in airport infrastructure grants, the third allotment of the total $3.18 billion in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding for airports across the United States. “This significant investment in airport improvements in Florida will fund construction and rehabilitation projects that will help maintain high levels of safety in U.S. aviation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. [Source: Florida Trend]

Most Florida voters worry about climate change. Will Trump talk about it?

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has a plan to talk about the environment with Florida voters: address the problems you see, not the causes you don’t. But environmental politics in Florida have shifted since Trump’s first run for the presidency in 2016, when his skepticism over the extent and causes of climate change proved immaterial in his path to electoral victory there. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› SpaceX gets $50 million NASA contract to launch space telescopes from Kennedy Space Center
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will be responsible for launching a new mission for NASA in two years that will carry three sensitive telescopes to space, allowing scientists to closely study certain astronomical objects for the first time.

› Thousands of palm trees are dying from a new disease. Tampa is ‘ground zero.’
The section of Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard that winds around the Hillsborough Bay is lined on either side by one of Florida’s most iconic plants, the palm tree. Among a canvas of lush palms, a few trees stand out. Their fronds are a sickly light brown. These palm trees are dying. So are many more around the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida. Just as worrisome: There is no cure for the disease that ails them.

› Next stop, Hollywood? Virgin Trains ponders new stations between Miami and West Palm
A bit more time may be soon be added on to your Virgin train trip—but for a select number of cities, access will now be granted to the fastest train in the south. In a recent filing, Virgin officials said they plan to announce up to three new stations before the end of the year in an effort to boost ridership. While the company is so far declining to name its new city stops, Hollywood may well be on the list.

› Duke Energy Florida approved for next solar installations and monthly bill increase to pay for them
State regulators approved Duke Energy Florida's second round of solar projects Tuesday. The three new projects, which are expected to come online by March 2020, are part of Duke's effort to install 700 megawatts of solar power by 2022.

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› Wild Florida Rescue is Back in Business, Thanks to Donations
A Brevard County-based wildlife rescue group in danger of shutting down for good will stay open. Wild Florida Rescue raised $10,000 Was forced to shut down for 30 days Wild Florida Rescue says it raised thousands of dollars, thanks to a Spectrum News story last month.

› Manatee deaths by watercraft rising at record pace in Florida
Wildlife experts have attributed toxic red tide algae and a cold snap to the deadly 2018 experienced by manatees, but so far this year, it’s boats that are towing most of the blame. From the beginning of this year through June 21, 81 manatees have been killed by watercraft in Florida’s waters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. During the same time frame in 2018, watercraft caused the deaths of 59 manatees.

› State commission approves FPL’s $1.3 billion in recovery costs from Irma
Utility regulators on Tuesday signed off on a $1.3 billion agreement involving Florida Power & Light’s costs for restoring electricity after Hurricane Irma plowed through the state in 2017. The Florida Public Service Commission approved the settlement between FPL, the state Office of Public Counsel and the Florida Industrial Power Users Group.

› Fewer Sarasota-Manatee homeowners late on mortgages
Blown higher after Hurricane Irma, mortgage delinquency rates are back to normal levels in Southwest Florida. The share of homeowners in the Sarasota-Manatee region who are at least 30 days late on their loan payments dropped to 2.5% in April from 4.4% one year earlier, according to a report Tuesday by data provider CoreLogic.