Medical marijuana patients and activists took to the streets of Orlando this week to demand that Florida Governor Rick Scott take action to allow the use of smokable medical marijuana in the state. The issue has been hotly contested since 2016, when Sunshine State voters approved Amendment 2, which established a comprehensive medical cannabis program allowing patients suffering from 10 qualifying conditions to use any form of medical cannabis as a treatment.
The conservative state legislature immediately stepped in and imposed a number of additional restrictions on the voter-approved measure, banning both smokable and edible forms of medical marijuana. Local cannabis advocate John Morgan, who wrote the original ballot measure, sued the state, arguing that the ban on smoking violated the wishes of the voters who approved the measure. This May, Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers agreed with Morgan, ruling that the ban on smokable MMJ violated patients' rights under the state Constitution.
The Florida Department of Health immediately appealed the ruling, and smokable medical marijuana remains prohibited until the issue is finally resolved. Mara Gambineri, deputy communications director for the governor's office, explained that "medical marijuana is available to patients across the state, there is even a home delivery option," FOX 35 reports. "The Legislature outlined how to implement this law and more than 130,000 patients have access to this treatment by more than a thousand doctors. It's disingenuous for this political protest to say otherwise."
At the protest, medical marijuana advocates called for Governor Scott to end the appeal and allow registered patients to smoke up in peace. "Rick Scott is pretty personally standing in the way of the will of the people," Brett Pufferbarger, PR director for veterans advocacy group Buds for Vets, said to the Orlando Weekly. "It doesn't matter what party we're from, what organization we're from, where we're from — Rick Scott's got to go. He hates us."
"I shouldn't be a criminal; I'm a veteran!" Pufferbarger, who also organized the rally, said to FOX 35. "I did my time, I did something, I shouldn't be a criminal if I want to go smoke a joint at the end of a hard day." Rico Camy, an employee at local dispensary TreeLeaf Healing Center, told the Orlando Weekly that he thinks the state should go even further and legalize full recreational use. "Look at how many people are arrested for possession — that's a huge win if we legalize it as far as recreationally. We no longer have to waste money jailing people for it."
A similar situation is playing out in Oklahoma, where voters just passed one of the country's most progressive medical cannabis laws last month. The program would allow the use of any form of medical marijuana, but the state Board of Health immediately voted to ban smokable forms of cannabis. Advocates are urging Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to override the health department's decision, but are also considering launching a legal challenge similar to what's currently unfolding in Florida.