Medical marijuana Archives - Florida Politics

Activists launch effort to light a spark for medical marijuana

Florida medical marijuana activists announced the formation of a new money group aimed at legalizing the drug for medicinal use nationwide.

The organization, called “Empowering Wellness,” was formed in part by longtime Florida activists Eric Stevens and Ben Pollara. The pair worked on Florida’s medical marijuana campaigns in both 2014 and 2016.

The group was formed as a coalition of more than 30 state and national organizations which support federal legalization.

“Empowering Wellness is going to do whatever we can to help move the needle forward on medical marijuana policy in Washington, D.C., and here in Florida,” Stevens said.

“Medical marijuana is legal in 31 states, and D.C., but an outdated, out-of-touch federal policy still stands in the way of patient access for too many Americans. We aim to change that, starting here in Florida.”

As Vox recently explained, “the federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it’s perceived to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse. The classification puts marijuana in the same category as heroin and a more restrictive category than schedule 2 drugs like cocaine and meth.”

To begin, Empowering Wellness is throwing its support behind a pair of bipartisan lawmakers who have spoken out in favor of the group’s goals.

Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida’s 1st Congressional District and Democrat Darren Soto of Florida’s 9th Congressional District both earned the group’s “Champions of Wellness” designation for their commitment to the issue.

The organization has endorsed both Gaetz and Soto in their respective primaries, and plans to expand its financial support of candidates in the general election.

Pollara said that Empowering Wellness “will be a powerful, bipartisan voice for creating meaningful, patient-friendly policy in D.C. that respects states and treats medical marijuana users, caretakers, physicians and the industry with compassion and fairness.”

He also lamented the” vacuum of strong advocates on these issues in Washington. Empowering Wellness will itself be such an advocate, but also do whatever we can to send ‘Champions of Wellness’ back to their seats in Congress, and hopefully pick up some new champions along the way.”

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 which authorized medical marijuana. However, that was followed by state legislators passing a series of restrictions on the use of medical marijuana, including a ban on smoking and limiting the number of dispensaries.

Many of those restrictions have been challenged in court and struck down, with Florida taxpayers footing an increasingly larger bill as the Rick Scott administration continues to challenge those rulings.

Unsurprisingly, Florida groups that stand behind the legalization of medical marijuana were eager to join together to form Empowering Wellness, including NORML Florida, Buds for Vets and attorney John Morgan. Morgan bankrolled the marijuana amendment and litigation challenging the smoking ban.

“It’s really incredible to see such a diverse array of advocates and businesses join together for the shared cause of moving medical marijuana policy meaningfully forward,” Stevens added.

State has spent $2M on legal bills for medical marijuana

As it defends a slew of cases over medical marijuana, the state of Florida has spent close to $2 million on outside lawyers. Nearly all of that went to one firm.

Records reviewed last week show at least $1.9 million approved by the Department of Health (DOH) going to two law firms — mostly Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli, but also Shutts & Bowen.

The contracts, which were usually amended for increasing amounts of money, were posted on Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis‘ Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System, or FACTS. It’s an “online tool developed to make the government contracting process in Florida more transparent.”

Meantime, medicinal cannabis advocates – including Orlando lawyer John Morgan – have called on term-limited Gov. Rick Scott to drop appeals of cannabis-related rulings that went against the state. That includes a case that Morgan backed, challenging the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana.

“Enough is enough, drop YOUR #MedicalMarijuana appeal,” Morgan said in a May 29 tweet that he has pinned to his Twitter page. “Do it for the PEOPLE!”

Paying big bucks for hired legal guns isn’t surprising: Under Scott “and other top Florida Republicans,” the state has “quietly spent more than $237 million on private lawyers to advance and defend their agendas,” the Associated Press reported last year.

That figure doesn’t include the nearly $16 million “Florida taxpayers have been forced to reimburse (for) opponents’ private attorney fees” when the state has lost, the AP said.

A request for comment with a Health Department spokesman was pending as of late Friday. It regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Its director, Christian Bax, worked his last day Friday after tendering his resignation last month. Deputy director Courtney Coppola will serve as interim head. And the department’s general counsel, Nichole Geary, who signed the legal-work contracts, also has resigned. She leaves later this month.

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Contracts for outside legal work on medical marijuana begin in March 2015, with a $230,000 deal to the Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli law firm of Tallahassee, for “legal representation to DOH in a rule challenge.” Total paid: $219,568.09. 

Dahlia Barnhart, a then 4-year-old with a brain tumor, and her mother, Moriah Barnhart, challenged the department in order to “expedite … (patients’) access to low THC cannabis.”

This was before passage of the state’s constitutional amendment authorizing medical marijuana, but after lawmakers OK’d use of low-THC, or “non-euphoric,” marijuana to help severely ill children. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

The state later expanded the use of medicinal marijuana through the “Right to Try Act,” which includes patients suffering intractable pain and loss of appetite from terminal illnesses.

The state won the case, with an administrative law judge finding among other things that the Barnharts alleged “insufficient facts … to show (Dahlia) would be substantially affected.”

Moriah Barnhart recently told the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau “she is still getting her daughter’s medical marijuana from out of state,” adding that she’s “never gotten a legal product from the state of Florida.”

The same law firm, in August 2015, also inked a contract eventually worth $1.275 million for “legal proceedings.” Total paid: $1,053,836.46.

Services include reviewing and analyzing files, attending meetings and preparing any court filings needed, the contract shows. For example, the firm has represented the state in administrative hearings on other medical marijuana rule challenges.  

Moreover, partner W. Robert Vezina III is listed as attorney of record for the department in an Okaloosa County lawsuit. That’s over whether a medical marijuana license preference for black farmers should include “Native American farmers and ranchers.”

The firm scored a third contract, similar to the second, worth a total of $700,000 in February 2017. Total paid: $540,721.34. 

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A fourth contract found on the FACTS system shows an August 2017 deal potentially worth $300,000 for the Shutts law firm, which has an office in Tallahassee. Total paid: $177,990.24. 

For instance, the firm helped represent the state in the lawsuit brought by Tampa strip club mogul, free speech fighter and medical marijuana patient Joe Redner.

Redner is suing the state to be allowed to grow his own marijuana and make juice of it; his doctor recommended fresh juice as the best way to keep his lung cancer in remission. He won at trial, but the state is appealing.

The firm has connections to Scott: Ben Gibson, a former lawyer to the governor, joined the firm this summer as a partner in its Business Litigation Practice Group in Tallahassee.

Gibson served as Deputy General Counsel and Assistant General Counsel to Scott for nearly five years, “helping advise the governor on the appointment of more than 120 judges to Florida’s courts.”

Medical marijuana advocates start their own PAC

Gary Stein, a medical marijuana historian and advocate, has opened his own Florida fundraising panel — the first of its kind — to support pro-marijuana candidates and influence legislation.

Clarity PAC was officially registered Wednesday as a non-profit corporation and political committee, state records show.

Its mission: “To advocate for full legal access to medicinal cannabis and the responsible adult use of cannabis, and to help create and pass legislation supporting that topic.” It hasn’t yet posted any contributions or expenses.

Its official launch will be this Sunday, with a noon rally in St. Petersburg at Cage Brewing, 2001 1st Ave. South.

“Clarity PAC will be presenting all candidates’ and elected officials’ views to Florida voters to help them make an informed choice at the polls in the form of spreadsheets … that include answers to specific questions, publicly issued statements and letter grades on reliability on cannabis issues,” Stein said in a statement.

That “information will be coming from more than just the traditional surveys sent to candidate’s offices or calls from phone banking,” he added.

“Advocates across the states, dubbed ‘canna-warriors,’ will be tasked with connecting with candidates … Canna-warriors will be paid for audio and video recordings that can be posted on the internet, and quotes from the candidates will be documented for the media.”

Among the committee’s backers: Tampa strip club mogul, free speech fighter and medical marijuana patient Joe Redner.

Redner is suing the state to be allowed to grow his own marijuana and make juice of it; his doctor recommended fresh juice as the best way to keep his lung cancer in remission. Redner won at trial, but the state is appealing.

Also on Stein’s board is Bill Monroe, a Navy veteran who’s director of facilities for 3 Boys Farm, a medical marijuana treatment center based in Ruskin.

Cannabis Cures Investments, or CannCure, recently agreed to buy a 60 percent interest in 3 Boys, with the closing expected in mid-August. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

State moves forward on marijuana licenses

State health officials will hold a workshop Aug. 17 to take input on the application process for new medical marijuana licenses.

The workshop, announced Thursday, will deal with one license earmarked for a black farmer who was a member of litigation dealing with federal discriminatory lending practices and four other licenses for applicants seeking entry into the state’s highly restricted medical marijuana market.

The Legislature ordered the new licenses following the passage of a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida. The Legislature passed a law last year that required health officials to issue 10 new licenses, including to applicants who had legal challenges pending as of January 2017 or who had scored within one point of the highest-ranked applicants in five regions.

Last month, the health department issued a license to Nature’s Way Nursery of Miami, Inc., shrinking the number of available licenses, because six of the 10 licenses authorized under the 2017 law have already been doled out.

The law also required health officials to give preference for two licenses to applicants who own facilities that were used to process citrus, the subject of at least one lawsuit. Because of litigation regarding the citrus preference, the department is holding off on accepting applications for the remaining two licenses.

But the state is moving forward with a process for the black farmer’s license and with an application process for four licenses ordered under a different part of the law. The measure requires health officials to grant four licenses after at least 100,000 eligible patients have enrolled in a statewide database, a benchmark that was recently surpassed. Office of Medical Marijuana Use interim director Courtney Coppola told a state legislative panel last month her office expects at least 400 applications for the four slots.

The upcoming application process will be the first opportunity for new operators to try to gain entry to Florida’s booming medical marijuana market, which is projected to generate $2.5 billion in revenue in less than a decade.

Charlie Crist sponsors bill allowing veterans to use medical marijuana

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist announced a new bill Wednesday that would allow veterans to be treated with medical marijuana without getting canned from federal government jobs.

Crist introduced H.R. 6589, also known as the “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act,” during a roundtable discussion with veterans and cannabis industry representatives in Largo.

“Medical marijuana is an issue of compassion, and in the veterans’ community, access is even more important as more and more veterans are turning to cannabis to address chronic pain and PTSD. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of veterans; however, private cannabis use even in states that have legalized medical marijuana is prohibited in these positions,” Crist said.

“Our bipartisan bill would protect federal employment for those in compliance with their state’s cannabis laws. Because our veterans shouldn’t have to choose between treatment options or job opportunities,” he continued.

Republican U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia, who is co-introducing the measure with Crist, added that “no one should face unemployment for choosing to pursue private legal medical treatment,” including federal workers, one-third of whom are veterans.

Crist’s email announcing the bill said it had already earned the backing of numerous marijuana advocacy organizations, including Americans for Safe Access, Florida for Care, Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association, NORMLVeterans Cannabis Coalition and the Weed for Warriors Project.

“Congressman Crist has been a strong ally in our fight to allow Florida patients access to medical marijuana and efforts to protect this access from federal interference. Florida for Care is proud to support his common-sense bill to protect employment of Floridians whose well-being depends on continuing medical marijuana treatment,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, and campaign manager of the successful 2016 campaign to approve medical marijuana in Florida.

“We applaud Congressman Crist’s leadership on this important issue as we continue working together to protect patients and strengthen the state’s medical marijuana system.”

Medical marijuana company Surterra Wellness, which operates 10 dispensaries in the Sunshine State, also lauded the plan in a separate statement.

“We applaud Congressman Crist for introducing a bipartisan bill to protect veterans’ treatment options. Surterra stands proudly beside the Congressman as he pursues medical cannabis reform in Congress so that our communities and local veterans can have access to safe and effective treatment options,” said Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann.

“We have a significant veteran community in Florida that deserves the highest quality, most consistent medical cannabis products available. We are proud to lead a company that seeks to improve the quality of our brave men and women’s lives through safe, natural means,” he continued.

Rob Bradley says medical marijuana law will be upheld

Despite a Tallahassee judge declaring significant parts of the state’s medical marijuana law unconstitutional, the law’s chief architect on Tuesday said he was confident the law would be affirmed.

“The trial court ruling injected unnecessary uncertainty into the emerging medical marijuana marketplace,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican. “I’m confident that our appellate courts will uphold (its) constitutionality.”

In 2017, lawmakers passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure (SB 8-A) into law to implement the state’s medicinal cannabis constitutional amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters the year before. Bradley was the main sponsor.

In recent months, however, judges have been chipping away at the law, beginning with Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ ruling that Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner can grow and make juice of his own marijuana.

In another case, Gievers struck down the law’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, saying that conflicted with the amendment. Both of those rulings are being appealed by the state.

Last week, Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson in a preliminary order struck down the requirement that Florida have a vertically-integrated market, meaning the same provider grows, processes and sells its own marijuana.

Dodson also ruled against the limit on the number of providers that can be licensed, and said creating special licenses – including giving a preference to former citrus processors – was out of bounds. 

Also on Monday, the company that challenged the state’s licensing scheme sent a letter (posted below) to state regulators asking that it be immediately “registered” as a medical marijuana treatment center, or provider. It’s partly owned by Redner.

“I am reaching out on behalf of Florigrown to see if we can reach a quick resolution,” wrote company president Adam Elend. “We sympathize with the difficult position the Legislature has placed the department in, but, as Judge Dodson stated, ‘… the legislative guidance was … inconsistent with the amendment.’ ”

Bradley disagreed: “Medical marijuana is being grown, processed and sold in a safe, orderly fashion today in Florida,” he told Florida Politics.

“As more companies come on line, and the Department (of Health) fully implements an integrated seed-to-sale system and a delay-free ID card system, the system will develop into a model for other states,” he added.

The department regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

“Floridians rightfully expect to have access to safe, quality medical marijuana, and also expect that the product be regulated properly like any other medicine,” Bradley said. “SB 8-A accomplishes both goals.”

Former Wrigley Co. CEO helps Surterra land $65M for expansion efforts

Medical marijuana company Surterra Wellness closed another successful round of equity fundraising that will allow it to start some substantial construction projects in the Sunshine State.

The company, founded in 2014, said it closed a $65 million “Series C” equity fundraising round in July. Series C funding is when investors put cash into companies that have shown viability in order to help them expand and grow at a more rapid clip.

Surterra, which runs 10 dispensaries in Florida, said some of that cash would be used to construct “substantial cultivation space in Florida” and double the number of its employees to 750 by the end of the year. Also in the cards: Building partnerships with other consumer brands, accelerating product development and conducting clinical research trials that test the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating maladies such as anxiety, pain and PTSD. Surterra also has a license to sell medical marijuana in Texas and has an application pending in Virginia, CEO Jake Bergmann said Tuesday.

While Florida will get plenty of love as Surterra expands, the company said the funding will also help them establish roots in new state markets across the country.

The new round of funding was led by Wychwood Asset Management, the direct investment arm of William “Beau” Wrigley, Jr. As his name suggests, Wrigley was the one-time head of the Wrigley Company, the chewing gum empire founded by his family in the late 19th Century.

Wrigley’s role in securing the new round of funding for Surterra landed him the chairmanship on the company’s board of directors. Prior to the Wrigley Company’s acquisition by fellow confectionary giant Mars, Beau Wrigley was at the helm through a period of growth and navigated numerous acquisitions, including those of Altoids and LifeSavers.

“I am thrilled to join the Surterra team and help drive their mission to build a best-in-class cannabis healthcare business,” Wrigley said. “After extensive diligence, we determined that Surterra has the highest quality standards, best products, and most professional management team in the industry.

“We believe in the ability of cannabis to improve quality of life for patients across the country, and we are excited to build a global industry leader for the long term,” he concluded.

Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann said the company was “proud to welcome Beau, a business leader who brings decades of world class experience and expertise in brand building, to Surterra Wellness. Having a seasoned industry veteran like Beau intimately involved in building Surterra’s business is exciting for the future of Surterra, our patients and the entire medical cannabis industry.”

The Wrigley funding, which took place last month, is the latest in a number of recent transactions in the state’s budding medical-marijuana industry.

In an agreement announced last month, the Canadian firm Scythian Biosciences Inc. said it intends to spend $93 million to purchase a majority of 3 Boys Farms — a Florida medical-marijuana operator that has yet to begin selling products to patients — and an unnamed “health care organization.” In June, California-based MedMen announced it was paying $53 million to acquire Eustis-based Treadwell Nursery, another of the state-licensed “medical marijuana treatment centers.”

Since lawmakers in Florida first legalized non-euphoric medical marijuana in 2014, the state’s cannabis industry has been plagued by legal and administrative challenges, delays in implementing the constitutional amendment and drawn-out rulemaking processes that have created frustration for legislators, patients, operators and investors.

A Tallahassee judge last week ruled that a state law capping the number of medical marijuana operators “directly contradicts” the 2016 constitutional amendment, which was approved by more than 71 percent of voters. But it’s unclear what, if any, impact Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson’s decision will have since he did not stop health officials from continuing their current processes.

Still, marrying Wrigley — whose namesake brands have been found in checkout lanes around the world for more than a century — with one of the state’s leading marijuana purveyors can be seen as another step toward putting cannabis, which requires a doctor’s approval, in a category with other household-name products.

“This is about helping people. It can give people a normal life, let them go to school and be a normal member of society. It is incredible to craft that opportunity in an industry that is starting from scratch,” Wrigley said in the statement.

The candy heir pointed out that three-dozen states have some sort of authorization for cannabis.

“Once people can get over the perception curve, they see the many benefits of this,” Wrigley said.

Judge strikes down proposed ‘citrus preference’ rule for marijuana licenses

An administrative law judge on Monday struck down a proposed state regulation carving out a ‘citrus preference’ for medical marijuana provider licenses, calling it “invalid.”

The decision may be moot, however, because a circuit judge last week declared the section of state law creating the preference to be unconstitutional. (That story is here.)

Louis Del Favero Orchids of Tampa challenged the proposed Department of Health rule, based on the law passed last year implementing a voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

The orchid grower argued the proposal fails to properly carry out the law, which includes giving preference for up to two medical marijuana licenses to applicants who own facilities that had been used to process citrus. It had bought a site in Pinellas County for “approximately $775,000” to qualify.

At issue was the difference between a “facility” and a “property.”

“The Legislature clearly intended to give a preference to applicants who ‘own … facilities that are, or were, used for canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus … and will use or convert the … facilities for the processing of medical marijuana,’ ” Judge R. Bruce McKibben wrote in his final order.

“The Legislature failed, however, to provide guidance by way of definitions,” he added.

“While the Legislature chose the words ‘facility or facilities’ in the Preference Statute, the Department complicated the issue by using the word ‘property’ for the most part, but also using the words ‘facility’ and ‘facilities’ at times,” McKibben wrote.

“Favero contends that a property is much broader in scope than a facility, and the Department therefore exceeded its delegated legislative authority.”

In sum: “The Department interprets the statutory language concerning ‘facility or facilities’ to include ‘property.’ It is impossible to reconcile that interpretation, especially in light of the fact the Legislature contemplated conversion of the facilities. The Department’s interpretation is hereby rejected as being outside the range of permissible interpretations.”

McKibben also found that a “packinghouse” would not qualify for the preference because “processing” means “doing something more with the raw product.”

That shuts out Mecca Farms, which filed as an intervenor in the case, because it “owns a packinghouse only, not a processing facility as that term seems to be used by the Legislature.”

McKibben’s order can be appealed to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

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Background for this post provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

Judge declares parts of medical marijuana law unconstitutional

A Tallahassee judge eviscerated the state law on medical marijuana, declaring major provisions to be unconstitutional.

The ruling came in a challenge brought by Florigrown, which had been denied a chance to become a “medical marijuana treatment center” (MMTC), or provider. The company is partly owned by Tampa strip club mogul and free speech advocate Joe Redner.

In a written order, Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson struck down several parts of the law that implements the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2016 authorizing medicinal cannabis:

— The requirement that Florida have a vertically-integrated market, meaning the same provider grows, processes and sells its own marijuana.

Dodson said lawmakers improperly modified the amendment’s definition of an MMTC: “… an entity that acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes, transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses, or administers marijuana …. (emphasis added)” The law instead uses “and” instead of “or,” Dodson wrote, which “contradicts” the amendment.

— Limits on the number of marijuana providers that can be licensed by the state.

“The amendment places no limits or caps on the number of MMTCs in Florida,” the judge wrote. “Such limits directly undermine the clear intent of the amendment.”

— Special categories of licenses, such as for owners of former citrus processing facilities.

For example, another provision in the law gives preference in granting medical marijuana provider licenses to companies with underused or shuttered citrus factories. Dodson said that violates another part of the state constitution barring a “grant of privilege to a private corporation.”

“This court understands the importance of both the Legislature and the Department (of Health) in developing a thorough, effective, and efficient framework within which to regulate medical marijuana, as directed by the amendment,” Dodson wrote.

“Florigrown has established that the Legislature and the department have such a framework … They have simply chosen to restrict access in a manner that violates the amendment.” The department regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

“Providing patient care to the citizens of Florida is exactly what Florigrown is trying to do with this suit,” company CEO Adam Elend said.

“We provided evidence that the current system threatens the availability and safe use of marijuana,” he said in a statement. “Under this broken system, there’s no way for the department to predict supply or calculate how many dispensaries are needed for the number of patients on the registry.” (Florigrown’s full statement is here.)

Dodson’s ruling, docketed last Thursday, was in the context of Florigrown’s request for a temporary injunction, which he denied. He instead set a case management hearing for Oct. 3.

“The court is concerned about findings of no irreparable harm and that granting a temporary injunction at this time is not in the public interest,” he wrote. “The passing of more time may alter those findings.” Dodson did find that Florigrown has a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits” of the case.

A request for comment is pending with Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and primary architect of the state law.

“The denial of the request for temporary injunction will allow the department to continue to work to implement the law so Floridians can have safe access to this medicine,” said Health spokesman Brad Dalton in an email.

The lawsuit began with an epic 238-page lawsuit — replete with references to Encyclopedia Britannica, ancient Roman medical texts and the Nixon White House tapes — that alleged the state was failing its responsibility to carry out the people’s will when it comes to medical marijuana.

State seeks to uphold ban on smoking medical cannabis

Pointing in part to smoking-related health effects, Attorney General Pam Bondis office on Friday filed a 57-page brief arguing that an appeals court should uphold a decision by the Legislature to ban smoking medical marijuana.

The brief, filed at the 1st District Court of Appeal, came as the state challenges a May ruling by Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who said the smoking ban violates a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

The Legislature in 2017 passed a law to carry out the constitutional amendment and included the smoking ban.

Prominent Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who heavily bankrolled the constitutional amendment, filed a lawsuit last year challenging the smoking ban. Bondi’s office Friday filed an initial brief in its attempt to overturn Gievers’ ruling.

The brief raised a series of issues, including arguing that the Legislature “considered important health and safety factors” when deciding to ban smoking.

“Notably, the Legislature considered evidence of the health hazards of smoking and concluded that smoking marijuana constitutes a harmful delivery method,” the brief said. “Time and again during debate, elected members of Florida’s Legislature emphasized that the amendment is exclusively about medicine, and that smoking is antithetical to good medicine.

“In considering these health-related factors, the Legislature reasonably determined that the harms caused by smoking — including harms to patients and those exposed to secondhand smoke — were ample reason to exclude smoking from the statutory definition of ‘medical use.’

“The Legislature therefore acted under its general authority to regulate public health, safety, and welfare when it drew a reasonable line between the smoking of medical marijuana, and other delivery methods.”

But in her May ruling, Gievers found that language in the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places consistent with the amendment.”

The “ability to smoke medical marijuana was implied” in the constitutional language “and is therefore a protected right,” Gievers wrote.

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Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida. 

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