Florida medical patients are one step closer to accessing smokable medical marijuana, after a Leon County circuit judge ruled last week that the state’s ban on smokable cannabis was unconstitutional. In a 22-page order, Judge Karen Gievers said that Florida patients have the right to access “all types of medical marijuana,” including its smokable form. The state’s health department has already appealed the decision, effectively staying the ban on medical marijuana until a later date.
Back in 2016, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that would broadly legalize medical marijuana. It was implied that would include the right to smoking marijuana in private spaces, as the amendment recognized there wouldn’t be a right to smoke in public spaces. But the state’s health department narrowed the scope of the amendment to exclude smokable marijuana from legislation, citing public safety and health concerns from ingesting smoke into the lungs.
“Just as no person is above the law, the legislature must heed the constitutional rights Floridians placed in the Constitution in 2016,” Judge Gievers wrote in her decision. “The conflicting, overreaching 2017 statute, while presumably adopted in good faith and with good intentions, cannot be allowed to overrule the authority of the people to protect rights in the Constitution.”
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With the appeal process already under way, Orlando lawyer and strident medical marijuana activist John Morgan has urged Florida Governor Rick Scott to rethink pursuing defense of the ban. Morgan said in a press conference with reporters this week that the governor is ultimately responsible in choosing whether the state chases the appeal or not.
“What everyone needs to understand is that Gov. Scott could remove that appeal today if he wants,” Morgan said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “Gov. Scott should say enough is enough: ‘I am going to allow the people’s will to be done’…The most direct method to get relief is smokable marijuana. This is not a political issue.”
Ben Pollara runs Florida for Care, a marijuana advocacy group, and says the ban on smokable marijuana has discouraged many patients from applying for a card and accessing legal channels.
“Florida for Care recently surveyed our members on this subject,” Pollara told Marijuana Business Daily. “Of those who considered themselves patients, the single biggest reason people cited for the fact they hadn’t yet gotten a medical marijuana card was that smokable marijuana wasn’t allowed.”
However, Morgan also framed the appeal as a political liability to Scott, who is currently running a US Senate campaign against Sen. Bill Nelson. He added that Scott was placating to the pharmaceutical companies that were threatened by a more compassionate and effective medicine in medical marijuana.
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“[If he drops the appeal,] I think he gains 5 points overnight,” Morgan said. “Gov. Scott is playing with political wildfire for something he doesn’t have to do.”
“Gov. Scott is going to have to make a decision whether he is going to put politics over people or he’s going to put campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry over compassion,” Morgan added.
Florida remains one of the fastest growing marijuana markets in the country. As of April the state has surpassed 100,000 registered patients. Analysts project sales could range from $175 million-$235 million this year, and potentially more, if sale of flowers become legally available.