Judge Says Florida Can't Ban Smokable Medical Marijuana, Gives Monday Deadline for New Rules

Courtesy of DEA
When 72 percent of Florida voters chose to legalize medical marijuana via a 2016 ballot initiative, most of them expected to be able to light up bongs, bowls, and blunts stuffed with newly legal cannabis. Because nothing is ever easy in Florida, that wasn't the case: The state Legislature outlawed smoking medical pot and instead legalized only edibles, vaporized pot, and cannabis oil.

So Orlando medical-marijuana advocate and wealthy lawyer John Morgan sued the state, and last month, a Tallahassee judge ruled that the smoking ban was unconstitutional. Because Gov. Rick Scott is a petty tyrant, his administration appealed the ruling, therefore preventing the new rule from going into effect.

But today, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ordered Scott's administration to quit lollygagging and implement the law. Though the order today simply kills the stay preventing the state from legalizing smokable weed and does not end the entire legal saga, Gievers wrote that Scott's appeal is doomed from a legal standpoint.

"There is no likelihood of success based on the merits of the defendants," the court ruling states.

Scott's administration now has until June 11 to draft rules allowing medical-cannabis patients to smoke pot the traditional way. Morgan, who bankrolled the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in 2016, sued the state on behalf of two Floridians who live with debilitating medical conditions (including ALS) and say smoking marijuana is the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to receive the benefits of the drug.

Morgan tweeted this afternoon that Scott's appeal was "frivolous" and that the governor is denying relief to "veterans, cops, firefighters, and cancer patients" who could, theoretically, smoke medical marijuana to relieve pain or psychological trauma such as posttraumatic stress disorder:
Scott received thousands of dollars in campaign funding from pharmaceutical companies, including a combined $33,000 from drug giants Pfizer, Novartis, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, during his last reelection bid in 2014. The pharmaceutical industry is steadfastly aligned against the legalization of medical marijuana. Critics say that's because doctors in states where medical pot is legal tend to prescribe fewer prescription pills, including painkillers and anxiety meds. (For what it's worth, many medical-marijuana growers in Florida are also politically well connected.)

Morgan initially sued last July. Plaintiffs Diana Dodson, who lives with HIV, and Cathy Jordan, who lives with ALS, both said they grew pot and smoked it in violation of state law. Gievers ruled today that the legal stay was needlessly harming the two women.

"First, they cannot legally access the treatment recommended for them,'' Gievers wrote. "Second, they face potential criminal prosecution for possession and use of the medicinal substance."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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