Florida voters legalized medical marijuana in 2016. But that referendum directed the Florida Legislature — a group dominated by fear-mongering, fun-hating conservatives — to write most of the rules and regulations for medical pot. After a gigantic political battle, the Legislature in 2017 finalized a list of ways that patients could legally ingest medicinal pot. And though they allowed vaporized weed, edibles, sprays, and marijuana oils, they barred patients from smoking weed the traditional way.
Until today. After a lawsuit from Orlando lawyer and medical-marijuana advocate John Morgan, a Tallahassee judge has ruled that Florida's current smokable weed prohibition is unconstitutional. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled Florida's medical cannabis patients have the right to smoke weed in private places.
"This is a huge victory for sick and suffering Floridians, who can now consume their medicine however they choose," says Ben Pollara, who managed Florida's United for Care campaign. "And it’s a victory for voters, whose clear will had been thwarted by the Legislature. No smoke is a joke, and today the court agreed."
Morgan filed the suit on behalf of two medical-marijuana patients last July: According to the Miami Herald, one patient, Levy County's Diana Dodson, lives with HIV and neuropathy, while the other plaintiff, Manatee County's Cathy Jordan, lives with ALS. Both say they are alive today only because they grow their own plants — and then break the current state law by smoking the results.
"In '86, I was given three to five years to live, and I'm still here,'' Jordan said in Leon County court last month, per the Herald.
The state argued that smokable marijuana wasn't an effective medical option, but the judge said that didn't matter.
"The defendants' toxicology expert's opinion about whether smokable marijuana is a good way for those with debilitating conditions to get relief is, quite frankly, irrelevant," the judge wrote. "Floridians have already given the rights of qualifying patients constitutional protection."
The judge also wrote that, constitutional questions aside, she believed the testimony of patients who found that smokable pot alleviated their painful symptoms was more compelling than testimony from the state's handpicked medical experts.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
It's not clear if the State of Florida will try to appeal the ruling or when a change in the laws would take effect.
Florida lawmakers had previously argued that allowing smokable marijuana would act as a "backdoor attempt" to legalize recreational pot around the state. (Since then, two Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Andrew Gillum and Philip Levine, have endorsed recreational marijuana legalization.)
Morgan, however, has long fought for medical-pot usage, since his brother became paralyzed and struggled to obtain medical cannabis as a treatment. However, Morgan says he also plans to invest $100 million in the state's medical-marijuana industry.
"When I start something I finish it," Morgan tweeted late Friday afternoon. "Truth prevails!!"