Florida taken to trial over prohibiting medical marijuana smoking

Joshua Ceballos/Assistant News Director

Patients in Florida have every right to use marijuana prescribed by their doctor in ointments, vapes, and edibles… They just can’t smoke it.

Despite the Floridians voting to amend the constitution to legalize marijuana in 2016, smoking of any cannabis product is prohibited by State law.

On Nov. 8, 2016, Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution, also known as the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was passed by a referendum. A referendum is when the people of a particular state petition to put an issue on the ballot and then have to vote it in by a “supermajority” of 60 percent.

Amendment 2 was passed by 71 percent, a “landslide majority” according to Ryan Peterson, an attorney at the Patino Law Firm in Hialeah.

The reason that many people have carried in supporting medical marijuana is its reported usefulness in treating symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

“Marijuana is a substance with many properties that may be applicable to the management of  ALS. These include [pain reduction], muscle relaxation, [expansion of airways], saliva reduction, appetite stimulation, and sleep induction,” according to a study published by Dr.Gregory T. Carter and Dr. Bill S. Rosen in the journal “Pharmaceutical Update.”

After the amendment passed, it was the job of the State to pass a law providing for the regulation and enforcement of medical marijuana use in Florida.

In 2017, the legislature passed Florida Statute Title XXIX Chapter 381.986, which made provisions for the use and administration of medical cannabis, with one caveat: “[this] does not include…Possession, use, or administration of marijuana in a form for smoking, in the form of commercially produced food items other than edibles, or of marijuana seeds or flower, except for flower in a sealed, tamper-proof receptacle for vaping,” according to section (j) of the chapter.

This prohibition of marijuana smoking sparked controversy among advocates of medical marijuana like Orlando trial attorney John Morgan and patients who use it to treat their ALS.

“A woman by the name of Cathy Jordan, a Florida resident, has ALS, and she’s contending that medical marijuana helps her with her ALS symptoms and smoking is the best form of administration for her,” said Peterson in an interview with Student Media. “Her and her husband along with John Morgan’s Political Action Committee ‘People United for Medical Marijuana’ have sued the State to get them to allow for smoking to take place.”

The argument from the plaintiffs, according to Peterson, is that the State’s job is to execute the will of the people, and it was reasonable to assume that smoking was included in marijuana use. The government, on the other hand, is arguing that because smoking was not outrightly mentioned in the amendment, it was not part of what the constitution meant to protect.

“It’s now up to the judge to make a decision as to whether the legislature faithfully executed the will of the people in their new laws, and the merits of each side’s arguments are anybody’s guess,” said Peterson.

Regardless of which side wins the case, which is currently ongoing, Peterson said the battle will most likely not end here. The losing side will probably take the case up the ladder of appeal courts all the way to the Supreme Court of Florida, and at this stage the parties are just preparing their bodies of arguments and evidence for later on.

Peterson told Student Media that advocates for medical marijuana use have more to worry about than just this case however.

“Marijuana is still against federal law, and that’s still an important thing that we need to talk about,” said Peterson. “Our state says marijuana is legal, and places like Colorado say its legal, but its still illegal in a federal capacity.”

Although several states have passed laws allowing use of cannabis products, the federal government has passed no such law for the country as a whole.

Local marijuana users and distributors have not run into issues so far because the government under former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration passed a spending bill that did not provide funding for taking down marijuana in the states, effectively tying their own hands for the moment, according to Peterson.

Things have changed under current U.S. President Donald Trump administration’s however, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the guidance to turn a blind eye toward marijuana, in an attempt to rekindle the war on drugs, according to the New York Times.


Feature Image retrieved from Flickr.

1 Comment on "Florida taken to trial over prohibiting medical marijuana smoking"

  1. I have chronic pain PTSD and other problems. I cannot use over the counter pain killers due to ulcers. My preferred method for medical Cannabis is to break off a very small chunk of bud and make hot tea out of it. I also swallow the bits of bud when I drink the tea. I cannot legally obtain buds in Florida even though I have my card and I don’t smoke it. This rule is ridiculous and only serves to put control of this medicine in the hands of corporate fat cats.

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