Medical marijuana Archives - Page 2 of 48 - Florida Politics

Trulieve launches relief drive to help Panhandle neighbors

Trulieve, one of the leading licensed medical marijuana providers in Florida, announced it would launch a statewide donation drive to help areas affected by Hurricane Michael.

The Gadsden County-based company in a press release stressed the connection between the business and the Panhandle and Big Bend communities affected by the storm.

“We’re fortunate enough to call Quincy our home and recognize that as the largest employer in the area, we have a responsibility to give back as much as we can,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers.

“Our statewide distribution system is in place and will be collecting supplies twice per week from each store and delivering back to Quincy. We aim to help as many residents in need as possible and will continue this effort until our community has sufficiently recovered.”

The community of Quincy, already dealing with poverty conditions before the hurricane hit the region, has counted on job growth from Trulieve headquartering in the region, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Right now, all Trulieve locations remain fully operational and will be open seven days a week.

The company, which just opened its 20th store, will have supply drop-offs at all properties including in Tallahassee, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Lady Lake, Gainesville, Orlando, Edgewater, Palm Coast, Vero Beach, New Port Richey, Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Sarasota, North Fort Myers, Boynton Beach, Dania Beach, Miami and Kendall.

Requested items for the supply drive include, but are not limited to, water, non-perishable foods, first aid items, batteries, baby food and formula, diapers, cleaning supplies, toiletries and pet food.

The medical marijuana industry remains fairly new, largely launching after voter approval in 2016 of a constitutional amendment authorizing medical cannabus for debilitation medical conditions.

In that time, Trulieve has expanded the most aggressively, and already opened two thirds of an allotted 30 locations for each license holder in the state of Florida. The company plans to open all of its location before the end of January.

Trulieve today sits on 68 percent of the medical marijuana market share in Florida.

John Morgan posts video endorsing Andrew Gillum, mainly over marijuana

Orlando lawyer and medical marijuana champion John Morgan posted a video on social media Friday morning declaring his full support for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and attacking Gov. Rick Scott and Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, mainly over marijuana.

“Electing this guy [Gillum] is so critical to everything marijuana in Florida,” Morgan declares in the five-minute a video on Twitter.

For decades Morgan was a big-time supporter of Democrats and Democratic causes. Last year he disavowed the Democratic Party, saying he was frustrated with both political parties and politics in general, and intended to become an independent. He still hasn’t, and still is registered as a Democrat, though he said earlier this week that’s just a matter of his not filing the paperwork yet.

In the video, he starts out trying to establish bipartisan credentials by expressing his support for Republican incoming state Senate President Bill Galvano and Republican incoming state Speaker of the House José Oliva.

From there, Morgan launches attacks on Scott, the two-term Republican Governor running for the U.S. Senate. In Morgan’s words, Scott is doing everything he can to thwart implementation of the state’s medical marijuana laws.

Morgan then goes after DeSantis.

“This fellow Ron DeSantis, he is a carbon copy of Rick Scott. His policies are exactly Rick Scott’s policies. The only difference between Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott is DeSantis is a lot shorter and has got a full head of hair. But everything about them is the same,” Morgan says.

“And who is going to lose? Really, really sick people. The veterans with PTSD, first responders, and the people who died in our midst. It has been a crime to watch this happen,” Morgan continues. “With Andrew Gillum, that won’t be the case. If we elect Andrew Gillum Governor, we are going to get the medical marijuana laws we voted on, day one, 71 percent of us.”

Morgan led the campaign to get medical marijuana legalization approved as an amendment to the Florida Consitution in 2016 and has battled with the Scott administration since on implementation of the law, including a lawsuit, now in appeal, to allow patients with medical marijuana cards to smoke marijuana.

Early on in his primary campaign, Gillum declared his support not just for medical marijuana but for legalization in Florida of recreational marijuana use. DeSantis has expressed concerns over the medical marijuana program and opposition to legalization.

With Gillum as Governor, Morgan declares in the video, “Smoke will be allowed. Have trouble getting a [medical] marijuana [authorization] card? No more. We’re going to fast track that.

“Even things like the full legalization of marijuana will be championed by this Governor, and people’s lives will not be ruined by being arrested for possession of marijuana, and our police officers can get out and be allowed to do real work, and people’s lives won’t be upended for life over a small arrest for a small amount of marijuana,” Morgan says in the video.

He doesn’t stop there. Morgan goes on to accuse DeSantis of being for billionaires, and says Gillum will fight for “the helpless, the hopeless, the powerless.”

“I am voting for  Andrew Gillum because he is the person that will put people first, he believes what I believe and what I believe is that every day our Governor should get up and fight like hell, not for the richest among us, not for the billionaires, but fight like hell for the people,” Morgan concludes.

Judge chastises state over marijuana licenses

In a harshly worded order scolding state officials for treating the Constitution “like a recommendation,” a Tallahassee judge Friday gave the Department of Health two weeks to begin registering new medical-marijuana operators or risk being found in contempt.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, siding with Tampa-based Florigrown LLC, rebuked Gov. Rick Scott, the Scott administration and the Republican-dominated Legislature for failing to properly carry out a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Florigrown, owned in part by Tampa strip-club operator Joe Redner, filed the legal challenge after the Department of Health denied its application for a medical marijuana license.

Dodson’s Friday order followed an August decision in which the judge found that a 2017 law, aimed at implementing the amendment, is unconstitutional because, among other things, it caps the number of highly sought-after medical marijuana licenses health officials can issue.

Although he found the law unconstitutional two months ago, Dodson delayed a ruling on Florigrown’s motion for a temporary injunction to give health officials time to comply with his original findings.

Dodson ruled verbally from the bench Wednesday in favor of Florigrown, but Friday’s written order — which the judge alone penned — severely reprimanded state health officials for failing to follow his instructions.

When he issued the Aug. 2 order, Dodson “was hopeful” that the health department “would take action to cure the serious constitutional problems” he identified in the state law, the judge wrote in Friday’s 6-page order.

Instead, a lawyer for the state agency this week “essentially conceded … that for the purpose of this case there have been no significant changes in the department’s regulations” or its handling of Florigrown’s application, according to Dodson.

“In other words, the court order was ignored by defendants,” he wrote.

State health officials are in an “unfamiliar situation” because the Legislature has the authority to implement most constitutional amendments. But the medical marijuana amendment specifically gave the responsibility to the Department of Health “to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients,” Dodson noted.

The law passed by the Legislature during a 2017 special session provided “guidance” to the state agency, but it “was in several ways significantly inconsistent with the Constitution, as pointed out in the August 2 order,” the judge wrote.

In August, Dodson found the 2017 law unconstitutional because it requires marijuana operators licensed by the state to cultivate, process, and dispense medical marijuana — something known as “vertical integration” — as opposed to breaking the activities into separate parts for licensure.

And the judge ruled that the law improperly restricted who could get licenses. The law ordered health officials to grant licenses to operators who were already up and running in Florida or who were involved in litigation as of Jan. 1, 2017. The law also required a license for a black farmer who meets certain conditions and set aside a preference for applicants with certain ties to the citrus industry.

“Thus, we have the department with specific duties placed on it by the Constitution, and the Legislature telling them incorrectly what to do, by statute. Nevertheless, the Constitution has very specific details in it. And the Constitution is the law of the land. The Constitution prevails over the statute,” he wrote.

Dodson’s order for a temporary injunction blocks the health department from moving forward with the application process laid out in the 2017 law and gives the state until 5 p.m. Oct. 19 to begin registering medical marijuana treatment centers “in accordance with the plain language of the Medical Marijuana Amendment.”

The judge also ordered the state to register Florigrown by 5 p.m. Oct. 19, unless the health department “can clearly demonstrate to this court that such registration would result in unsafe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients.”

Dodson also emphasized to the defendants — the health department, the agency’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use and various state health officials — “that this is a court order,” before concluding with a rare warning: “Willful violation of the court order may result in sanctions, which could include a finding of contempt of court.”

Department of Health spokesman Nick Van Der Linden said in an email that the agency is reviewing the order, noting that it “does not impact the availability of medical marijuana in Florida” to the state’s 170,000 qualified patients.

Redner and his legal team, however, hailed Dodson’s order and his choice of words.

“I think our Legislature, I think our governor, I think they’re lawless. They think they’re above the law. They won’t follow the law. And we’ll see now if this judge can put the fear of the judiciary in them and do what the Constitution says,” Redner told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview.

Redner recently won another lawsuit against the health department, when a judge ruled that the 77-year-old can grow his own marijuana to “juice.” Redner’s doctors recommended juicing to prevent a recurrence of lung cancer. The state has appealed that decision.

Florigrown CEO Adam Eland called on Scott to order the health department to comply with the judge’s ruling.

“Is this governor going to ignore this court and obfuscate again, or is he going to stop with all this nonsense and do what he (Dodson) says?” Eland said.

But lawyer John Lockwood, who represents marijuana operators and others seeking licenses, said the judge’s order puts the health department in a difficult position.

“There is a very specific statute that directs them on how they must regulate this industry. If they were to ignore that legislation, they would open the agency up to even more significant litigation,” Lockwood told the News Service.

In Friday’s order, Dodson found Florigrown would suffer “irreparable harm” in the absence of the temporary injunction, and that the injunction “will serve the public interest,” which he said “was clearly stated” by the amendment’s approval by more than 70 percent of voters.

The amendment’s passage “makes it clear the Department of Health must do the matters required in it to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients.”

“The department has failed to do so,” he wrote, adding that the 2017 statute “is an unconstitutional attempt” to implement the amendment.

“The court is concerned the Constitution is being treated as just a recommendation. It cannot be. The Constitution is the law of the land — the supreme law of our government, which we must all live by. The Medical Marijuana Amendment of the Constitution is specific. Much of that specificity is being ignored,” he scolded.

Judge blocks medical marijuana license process

In what could be another delay for Florida’s burgeoning medical-marijuana industry, a Tallahassee judge agreed Wednesday to block state health officials from moving forward with the application process for highly sought-after medical marijuana licenses.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson’s verbal order during a hearing came nearly two months after he found that a state law, passed during a special legislative session last year, runs afoul of a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana.

In August, Dodson ruled that a cap on the number of medical marijuana operators included in the law “directly contradicts” the amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2016.

Dodson also decided that the 2017 law is unconstitutional because it requires marijuana operators licensed by the state to cultivate, process, and dispense medical marijuana — something known as “vertical integration” — as opposed to breaking the activities into separate parts for licensure.

And the judge ruled that the state improperly restricted who could get licenses. The law ordered health officials to grant licenses to operators who were already up and running in Florida or who were involved in litigation as of Jan. 1, 2017. The law also required a license for a black farmer who meets certain conditions and set aside a preference for applicants with certain ties to the citrus industry.

The citrus and black-farmer provisions amounted to what is known as a “special” law, Dodson ruled in August. The judge found the 2017 law restricts rights granted under the Constitution and that plaintiff Florigrown LLC “has a substantial likelihood of success” in its claim that the law conflicts with the amendment.

Despite multiple findings in his August decision that the statute is unconstitutional, Dodson waited until Wednesday to issue the temporary injunction sought by Florigrown, a company that was turned down for a license. Florigrown is partly owned by Tampa strip-club operator Joe Redner, who recently won another ruling against state health officials in a case in which he is seeking to grow his own marijuana to “juice,” something the 77-year-old’s doctors recommend to prevent a recurrence of lung cancer. The state has appealed the ruling in the earlier case.

“It’s good news for me. It’s good news for Florigrown. It’s good news for the patients and the Constitution of the state of Florida,” Redner said in an interview following Wednesday’s hearing.

In August, the judge set a Wednesday deadline for health officials or the Legislature to resolve the deficiencies with the law. Wednesday marked one year after a deadline imposed by the constitutional amendment for health officials to begin issuing identification cards to patients who qualify for medical marijuana.

“Another two months has passed, and I do believe now we’re at the point where Florigrown will suffer irreparable harm absent the entry of a temporary injunction and that, given the public interest that can’t be more clearly stated than the public stated in the medical marijuana amendment, that allowing this process and procedures going through by the department is not in the public interest,” Dodson said Wednesday.

Luke Lirot, a lawyer representing Florigrown, accused health officials of having “ignored this court’s observations … with impunity.”

“It’s quite candidly shocking that the court would issue an order and it would be so robustly ignored by the Department of Health after there was a clear indication that they needed to do something,” he said.

But Dodson appeared to sympathize with the predicament of state health officials, saying they were in an “unusual situation” trying to follow an unconstitutional statute.

In a video recording of an August rules hearing played by Florigrown’s lawyers Wednesday, state Office of Medical Marijuana Use Director Courtney Coppola said she was “following the law” by moving forward with the application process for four new licenses.

“What Miss Coppola was saying was, we’re following the statute, which is what agencies normally are required to do, but the statute is just unconstitutional,” the judge said. “I’m sure the Legislature was trying its best to comply with the Constitution, but they just didn’t do that in this circumstance.”

Dodson said he would issue a written order granting the temporary injunction by Friday and set a Nov. 19 hearing to consider summary judgment in the case.

Health officials said they will review Dodson’s order when it is issued.

“This ruling does not impact the availability of medical marijuana in Florida. Low-THC and medical marijuana has been and continues to be available to the more than 160,000 qualified patients by more than 1,500 qualified physicians through 14 approved medical marijuana treatment centers in 55 locations,” agency spokesman Nick Van Der Linden said in an email.

But Dodson’s ruling “blocks the Florida Department of Health from proceeding forward with the application process for additional medical marijuana treatment center licenses, over the 14 that have already been issued,” Ari Gerstin, a lawyer who represents Florigrown and who participated in Wednesday’s hearing by telephone, told The News Service of Florida.

The process of accepting new license applications is already delayed because of a rule challenge. The health agency is also fending off at least six administrative challenges filed by would-be operators who’ve been turned down for licenses.

After the hearing, Lirot accused state officials of “doing everything they can to deter access to an important medication.”

“I mean, what they’re doing is based to me more on restriction and avarice than it is on compassion, which is what this is all about,” he told The News Service of Florida.

Redner was even more blunt: “They’re like petulant children. They just refuse to do the right thing,” he said.

State seeks to stamp out marijuana license case

The Florida Department of Health is asking an appeals court to block a lower-court judge from moving forward with a lawsuit in which a Martin County nursery argues it should receive a potentially lucrative medical-marijuana license.

The department went to the 1st District Court of Appeal last week in the dispute, which stems from nursery Edward Miller & Son Inc. being denied a marijuana license — at least in part because the firm missed an application deadline by 27 minutes.

Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers had scheduled a trial to start Oct. 8. But the appeals court issued an order Friday that at least temporarily put the case on hold and gave Edward Miller & Son until Oct. 31 to respond to the state’s arguments that the lawsuit should be scuttled.

Attorneys for the department argued in last week’s petition that the licensing dispute should have gone through a state administrative court, rather than being filed in circuit court. The filing said the department has requested at least three times that Gievers not move forward with the case, but she rejected the department’s arguments, including turning down proposed summary-judgment rulings.

“Circuit courts are to abstain from exercising jurisdiction in matters where administrative remedies must first be exhausted,” the department petition said. “The avenue by which Miller seeks to obtain a license requires exhaustion of administrative remedies. Miller readily admits that it has not exhausted administrative remedies; it simply contends that it does not need to or that such remedies would not afford adequate relief.”

But in a filing last month in circuit court, Edward Miller & Son said it is challenging the department’s “wrongful denial” in 2015 of the application to become a marijuana “dispensing organization.” It also argued that, under a 2017 law, the department is required to grant a license if the nursery wins the lawsuit.

At least in part, Edward Miller & Son contends it was treated differently from other applicants who submitted information after the deadline.

“It is clear that this (Gievers’) court has jurisdiction to hear Miller’s claims and, further, to grant equitable relief based on the department’s improper and unequitable application of its rules as applied to Miller’s initial DO (dispensing organization) application,” last month’s circuit-court filing said.

The case is part of a flood of litigation during the past three years as Florida has started creating what is expected to be one of the largest medical-marijuana markets in the country. The industry started in 2014, when lawmakers approved limited use of non-euphoric cannabis — and exploded after voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Much of the litigation has centered on firms trying to obtain a restricted number of licenses to grow, process and sell medical marijuana. Firms competed heavily in 2015 for an initial round of licenses with an eye toward an expanding marijuana market in the future.


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

With future looking green, Surterra optimistic about medical cannabis

Representatives of medical marijuana provider Surterra were joined by members of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday for a ribbon cutting that seemed implausible a couple of years ago.

Clay County was cautious in allowing medical cannabis dispensaries to open, but the conservative Northeast Florida county eventually saw benefit.

In October 2017, the city of Orange Park greenlighted dispensaries. It took almost a year for Surterra, which is state-licensed, to open in a strip mall near the Orange Park Mall.

Even as popular opinion seems to be moving toward outright legalization of adult-use cannabis (a.k.a., “recreational marijuana”), the evolution in the medical space is worth noting, underscored by statewide candidates on the 2018 ballot.

In the Agriculture Commissioner race, South Florida Democrat Nikki Fried has been a medical cannabis lobbyist. North Fort Myers Republican Matt Caldwell represents reform also, however; he advocates rescheduling cannabis on a federal level. The two diverge on whether medical cannabis should be smoked.

No matter who wins, expect friendlier terrain for the booming cannabis industry than the current framework.

Democrats up and down the ticket have embraced reform:

— Gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum wants legalization.

— Sean Shaw recently did a press conference at another Surterra, where he advocated for the program.

— Even Sen. Bill Nelson, at the urging of Orlando lawyer and medicinal cannabis advocate John Morgan, has embraced the idea that the plant should be smoked by those whose doctors prescribe it.

These are boom times for the heavily capitalized Surterra, which is expanding its cultivation and retail footprints while announcing new celebrity collaborations (Jimmy Buffett, looking at you).

With the regulatory climate becoming more pragmatic as capital convinces legislators to evolve, we spoke with Surterra’s Kim Hawkes, who handles government and public relations for the company.

She came to the private sector from the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), where she was External Affairs Coordinator. Having seen the program evolve, she is optimistic about the future of the medical cannabis industry.

Hawkes, a veteran of the Rick Scott administration, noted that in recent years, “the learning curve has been quite steep” for legislators as the program ramped up.

“However, we’re now finding that most Floridians are surmounting” that curve, Hawkes said, as “cannabis-based medicines” become “more mainstream.”

“Elected officials in Florida are finally understanding that the majority of their constituencies want medical cannabis,” Hawkes said. “The majority even support having it regulated in an adult-use program.”

“It’s surprising to them when they see the numbers. Over 70 percent support medical cannabis,” Hawkes said, referring to public opinion surveys. That’s an echo of the constitutional amendment that allowed medical marijuana, passed by 71 percent of voters in 2016.

And those numbers could move elections, including in six weeks.

Hawkes noted that “single-issue voters who are excited about what medical cannabis can do … are not keeping quiet” or “staying lethargic as you might have seen before.”

“It’s a really exciting election cycle to be part of that,” Hawkes said.

With adult-use legalization becoming less of a hypothetical as time moves on, we asked Hawkes if Surterra was concerned about that development. Quite the opposite, she said.

Surterra “started in the medical space, and that’s what we believe in: Empowering people’s wellness,” Hawkes said.

However, “we’re more in the health and wellness market, which expands across the medical cannabis market and the adult-use cannabis markets. The health and wellness market expands over both of them, and that’s where we aim to target.”

“Recreation is a part of treatment plans for recovering addicts. Recreation is part of a holistic approach to becoming better, living well, and that’s what Surterra stands for,” Hawkes added.

Whatever the framework, “support of health and wellness” is the company’s goal.

Regarding the question of smokable cannabis, there are some dispensaries (Trulieve, most prominently) that offer flower pods that can be vaporized (i.e., “vaped”).

Surterra does not. Hawkes noted that’s not because of any philosophical difference, but interpretation of the state law that implemented the amendment.

“If we receive approval from the Department of Health to offer those products, we will offer those products,” Hawkes said, citing a need to allow an amendment to its medical marijuana treatment center (or MMTC) application.

Hawkes expressed optimism also about the OMMU processing patient applications more quickly, noting that the use of a third-party vendor (Veritec) has ended the narrative about onerous wait times for state approval.

“For patient-access purposes,” Hawkes said, “that’s fantastic.”

Another done (marijuana) deal: Trulieve finishes merger with Canadian concern

Trulieve, a Florida medical marijuana provider, and a Canadian mining company on Friday said they had completed their merger and will start trading stock publicly in Canada.

Trulieve will begin trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) under the symbol “TRUL” on Tuesday, according to a press release. Toronto-based Schyan Exploration Inc. combined with Trulieve to become Trulieve Cannabis Corp. 

The new company’s CEO and board chairman is Kim Rivers, the head of the former Trulieve Inc., who now holds 159,867 of what are termed “Super Voting Shares” in the new company, or 18.75 percent, a company statement said.

Thad Beshears, co-owner and chief operating officer of Jefferson County’s Simpson Nurseries, holds 150,000 Super Voting Shares, or 17.6 percent. He’s a brother of state Rep. Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican. Simpson Nurseries is the Beshears family business. 

The closing is the latest big deal in the state’s medicinal cannabis market, which has been seen as a potential multibillion-dollar industry by investors.

Trulieve has one of 14 “medical marijuana treatment center” (MMTC) licenses in the state, according to the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Florida has a vertically-integrated market, meaning the same provider grows, processes and sells its own marijuana. 

A legal challenge against the state is still pending. It’s over how many retail stores Trulieve can open, and where, under state law. Its website last listed 17 retail locations and a call center.

State asks court to reverse medical marijuana ‘home grow’ ruling

Saying a lower-court judge “misconstrued the plain language of Florida’s Medical Marijuana Amendment,” the state is asking an appellate court to reverse her ruling allowing Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner to grow and make juice of his own medical marijuana.

Outside counsel for the Department of Health filed an initial brief Thursday in its appeal at the 1st District Court of Appeal. The agency regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers in April decided that Redner — a 77-year-old lung cancer survivor — has the right to ‘home grow’ under 2016’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana. His doctor says juiced marijuana is the best way to keep his cancer in remission.

Luke Lirot, Redner’s attorney, has said the state erroneously argues that the amendment doesn’t mean what it says: That qualified marijuana patients can grow their own.

But the state’s brief says the amendment “defines ‘medical use’ as ‘the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of an amount of marijuana not in conflict with Department rules, or of related supplies by a qualifying patient or caregiver for use by the caregiver’s designated qualifying patient for the treatment of a debilitating medical condition.’

“The definition of ‘medical use’ does not include the right to cultivate (or grow) marijuana, even for personal use.”

Rather, only licensed providers known as ‘medical marijuana treatment centers’ (MMTCs) are “authorized to cultivate marijuana, (and therefore) any medical use of marijuana that is not cultivated by an MMTC would not be ‘in compliance’ with the amendment,” the brief says.

Redner, the owner of the Mons Venus nightclub, is a vegan. Gievers’ order limits him to no more than eight ounces or raw marijuana daily, based on his doctors’ recommendations. It applies only to Redner and allows him to “possess, grow and use marijuana” only for juicing.

A Health Department spokesman previously said the agency “fully expects Judge Gievers’ ruling to be reversed on appeal.” It’s represented by Jason GonzalezRachel Nordby and Amber Stoner of the Shutts & Bowen law firm’s Tallahassee office. 

Nordby recently joined the firm after being a deputy solicitor general for Attorney General Pam Bondi. She was on the team of state lawyers that lost a case, organized by Orlando attorney John Morgan, against the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana. That decision also is under appeal.

Marijuana smoking ban case smolders in appellate court

The state constitution “creates a procedural right to seek treatment with smokable marijuana,” according to a new filing in an appeal by patients seeking to light up medicinal cannabis.

Attorney Jon Mills filed a 48-page answer brief late Thursday, in response to the state’s 57-page brief last month arguing that the smoking of medical marijuana should remain outlawed.

The 1st District Court of Appeal case followed a May ruling by Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who said the smoking ban violates the 2016 constitutional amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

The next year, lawmakers passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure to carry out the constitutional mandate and included a smoking ban.

Prominent Orlando entrepreneur and lawyer John Morgan, who bankrolled the amendment, organized a lawsuit last year challenging the ban. Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, behind the appeal, filed an initial brief in an attempt to overturn Gievers’ ruling.

In part, Gievers had agreed with Mills that 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.”

In his brief, Mills said the constitution’s marijuana provision “permits physicians to certify treatment using medical marijuana— including in a form for smoking—to qualifying patients. That is all (it) does. Nothing less. Nothing more.

“However, (the state law) explicitly prohibits the smoking of medical marijuana as a treatment. It is clearly an enactment contrary to (the amendment).”

The state contends the amendment “does not create a ‘right to smoke’ medical marijuana,” and Mills agreed it “does not in itself create an individual right for anyone to smoke.”

But, he added, the “constitutional framework authorizes treatment with medical marijuana when a physician determines such treatment to be medically appropriate for a specific patient with a debilitating medical condition.”

As of Friday, the court had not ordered oral argument in the case.


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

Polling: GOP candidates on wrong side of medical marijuana smoking ban

As Florida Politics was preparing to release the results of our final post-primary, statewide survey focusing on the nexus of 2018 elections and medical marijuana, POLITICO Florida published a story putting Ron DeSantis, Ashley Moody and Matt Caldwell squarely on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to Florida’s popular medical marijuana law.

The three top-of-ticket Republicans each offered varying degrees of incoherence as they staked out positions in support of Tallahasee’s quixotic crusade against allowing Florida patients to smoke medical marijuana.

DeSantis: “I want to see what happens with [the appeal].”

Moody: “…the litigation to clarify the amendment’s scope is reasonable…”

Caldwell: “…smoking is not a medicinal delivery system…[the smoking lawsuit] is just a fig leaf for full recreational use…”

Meanwhile, in the real world, voters believe — by a whopping 66-24 margin — that medical marijuana patients be allowed to smoke marijuana under the law.

These numbers come from Florida Politics’ polling partnership with medical marijuana advocacy org Empowering Wellness. What began as Wellness Week has now stretched over almost two weeks, and we’ve released results from four surveys over the last 10 days. In tomorrow morning’s SunBurn we’ll roll out the fifth and final poll, looking at the race for Attorney General.

ICYM the Sean Shaw-Moody horse race numbers,I’ll give you some hints:

—It’s tiggggght (duh);

—Medical marijuana is a winner for Shaw, and a loser for Moody.

Just like the three previous St. Pete Polls statewide surveys that we commissioned as part of Wellness Week(s), Floridians strongly support the state’s medical marijuana law, in numbers consistent with the 71 percent it received on the 2016 ballot. Also in line with the previous surveys, people aren’t happy with the Tallahasee status quo when it comes to the application of that law.

By a 42-23 margin, respondents disapproved of the way outgoing AG Pam Bondi has handled medical marijuana during her tenure. Those figures are squarely aligned with the prior results, where we asked if folks approved of Gov. Rick Scott’s handling (nope, by 45-30), and the Legislature’s handling (uh uh, by 48-29) of medical marijuana implementation.

Even in the survey we conducted among Republican primary voters in the uber-conservative 1st Congressional District (held by medical marijuana-supporting Republican, Matt Gaetz), Panhandle Republicans would rather keep the Florida medical marijuana law in place, versus repealing it, by a 53-34 margin.

DeSantis, Moody and Caldwell are simply out of step with the electorate on this issue, and all indications are that Democrats are going to continue weaponizing it to their electoral advantage.

We had Bill Nelson over Scott by 0.1 percent, Andrew Gillum over DeSantis by 0.3 percent, and Nikki Fried over Caldwell by 1.8 percent — and the AG race is looking to be another close one.

With a slate of statewide contests this tight, medical marijuana could easily make the difference in any one of them.

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