A judge has ruled that Florida’s ban on smoking medical cannabis in unconstitutional.
In 2016, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that allows the use of medical cannabis through vaping, as well as the use of the drug through oils, food, tinctures, and sprays. And last year, the Legislature included a provision that bans medical marijuana from being smoked. This measure was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
However, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers last week ruled in favor of patients who challenged the state’s ban through a lawsuit.
What the lawsuit is about
The lawsuit was brought against the State of Florida by Orlando-based attorney John Morgan, who had led the campaign to get medical cannabis legalized in the state. The suit was filed in July 2017, just two weeks after Gov. Scott signed the new law.
Morgan was joined by two patients who are both suffering from terminal illness and who benefit from smoking medical marijuana. Cathy Jordan has had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) since 1986 while Diana Dodson has had HIV since 1991.
According to Jordan, when she was diagnosed with ALS, doctors had thought she only has three to five years left to live. Smoking pot has helped her live much longer than this, and her use of the drug is supported by her physicians.
Jordan says that smoking pot dries her excess saliva, as well as increases her appetite. It also works as a muscle relaxer for her.
Dodson, who also has neuropathy, testified that in her case, vaping is less effective compared to smoking and that smoking allows her to get the proper marijuana dosage she needs.
The lawsuit also involved two advocacy groups asking that the court validate the law to implement the amendment because it violates the intent of the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2016.
In their argument, the plaintiffs said that because the language of the amendment only mentions smoking in public, medical cannabis users should be permitted to smoke in private.
The court ruling
In her 22-page ruling, Judge Gievers said that Florida residents have the right to use whatever form of medical cannabis they choose in the treatment of their debilitating health conditions as recommended by their doctors, including the use of smokable pot in private places.”
Judge Gievers also wrote that the opinion released by the defendants’ toxicology experts about whether smokable cannabis is a good method for those with debilitating conditions to get relief is irrelevant. Floridians, she added, “have already given the rights of qualifying patients Constitutional protection.”
Advocates are happy about the ruling
According to Ben Pollara of the nonprofit medical cannabis advocacy group Florida for Care, the ruling can be considered a big victory for both voters and patients.
Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida’s Taylor Patrick Biehl,meanwhile, said that despite the legislative pushback over ideologies and interpretation, “justice has been served.”
Kim Rivers, Trulieve CEO, also hailed the ruling. Trulieve is a dominant player in the cannabis industry.
Trulieve, Rivers said, is ready to provide patients in Florida with cannabis flower. She said that they are also looking forward to the Department of Health’s guidance as to the next steps in approving this form of medicine for patients.
Department of Health appeals ruling
In a statement, Florida’s Department of Health said that it has appealed Judge Gievers’ order, which will impose automatic stay.
Department of Health spokesman Devin Galetta said that the recent ruling goes against what lawmakers outlined when they drafted and passed the law for the constitutional amendment.
The next stop will be Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.