Florida Court Reverses Ban on Smokable Medical Marijuana
Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the ban on smokable cannabis is unconstitutional, but the state has already appealed the ruling.
Published on May 29, 2018

A Florida Circuit Court Judge has ruled that a state law preventing residents from smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional, but the ban will remain in effect while legislators appeals the ruling. The state's original medical cannabis law, approved by voters in 2016, allowed qualifying patients to consume any form of medical cannabis, but legislators later amended the law to ban all smokable forms of marijuana.

Last year, John Morgan, a cannabis advocate who wrote the original ballot initiative, sued the state, arguing that the smoking ban violated the original intent of the measure. The court case argued that the initial law only prohibited cannabis smoking in public, and that by trying to extend the ban to private smoking, lawmakers were attempting to overrule the wishes of the state's voters. When the case came to trial last week, Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers heard testimony from two medical cannabis patients who explained that smokable forms of cannabis were more effective at treating their specific ailments.

Judge Gievers promised a swift ruling in the case, which she delivered in favor of the plaintiffs last Friday. In the ruling, Gievers wrote that the law prohibiting smokable medical cannabis "unconstitutionally restricts rights that are protected in the Constitution, and so the statutory prohibition against the use of smokable marijuana permitted by [a] qualifying patient is declared invalid and unenforceable," NORML reports. "Qualifying patients have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for [the] treatment of their debilitating medical condition as recommended by their certified physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places."

Medical cannabis advocates and patients across the state lauded Gievers' ruling. "Despite legislative pushback over interpretation and ideologies, justice has been served," Taylor Patrick Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida said to WTSP 10 Florida. "So many people won't smoke due to the stigma and it being against the law. This is legitimate medicine," Cathy Jordan, one of the patients who testified in the case, said. "This ruling is not just for me, but for many other people."

In light of the ruling, several medical cannabis firms in the state are now planning to begin ramping up production of cannabis flower products. Kim Rivers, CEO of medical marijuana dispensary Trulieve, said that her business was "ready to provide Florida patients flower and the medical benefits of the entourage effect that full flower cannabis provides," the Associated Press reports. "We look forward to guidance from the Department of Health on next steps to approve this next form of medicine for patients."

Trulieve is not likely to see any guidance from the state Health Department anytime soon, though, as the agency immediately appealed the court's ruling. Devin Galetta, spokesperson for the Department, said that the ruling "goes against what the legislature outlined when they wrote and approved the law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved," WTSP reports. The case will now move to the state's First District Court of Appeal, leaving the ban on smokable cannabis in full effect until this court upholds or overturns the appeal.

John Morgan criticized Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is currently running for a spot in the U.S. Senate, for allowing state officials to appeal the ruling. Scott "didn't even wait 10 minutes to file his notice of appeal," Morgan tweeted. "He IS the department of health. This is HIS case. Rick, this type of meanness will COST you the US Senate seat. THIS is what the PEOPLE voted for! Don't be like the others. Grow some brass ones!!"

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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