A Leon County Circuit Court judge will hear arguments about the validity of Florida's smokable medical marijuana ban next month, finally giving one of the Sunshine State's most controversial legal weed regulations its day in court.
The lawsuit, first filed in July of this year by attorney and cannabis advocate John Morgan, seeks to remove a legislative amendment to Florida's voter-approved medical marijuana law banning the sale and use of smokeable, whole-flower cannabis.
In November, 2016, Floridians passed a medical marijuana initiative that included a clause giving terminally ill patients the right to use full-strength marijuana under the "Right to Try Act," with over 70% of the voters in favor. Before the program could be implemented, though, Sunshine State lawmakers flexed their red pens and legislative powers, amending the ballot initiative to ban smokable cannabis. That bill passed through the legislature with flying colors and support from both sides of the aisle.
For John Morgan, who wrote the successful medical marijuana initiative and has contemplated a run for Florida Governor in 2018, the post-vote changes have been a slap in the face to his ultimate goal: opening medical marijuana access to as many Floridians in need as possible.
"By redefining the constitutionally defined term 'medical use' to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of 'a licensed Florida physician' and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process," the initial lawsuit filing states.
In the original MMJ legalization initiative, Morgan argues, the language allowed legislators to make decisions with regard to smoking in public places, but not as it pertains to use in private homes or for sale at licensed dispensaries.
"If something is not allowed in public, it is allowed in private," Morgan said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit in July. "It's as clear to all of you as it is to any first-grader taking first-grade logic."
Now, after six months of waiting and at least one instance of regulatory action against dispensaries selling whole-plant cannabis, Morgan and his co-plaintiffs will finally present their case to a judge.
According to the USA Herald, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers will hear arguments from Morgan's lawyers and state regulators on January 25th.
In their arguments against smokable cannabis, Sunshine State legislators have argued that legal growth and access to whole-plant pot could create a "backdoor" to full legalization.
If Judge Gievers and the Circuit Court side with Morgan and his medical marijuana patient co-plaintiffs, Florida's Department of Health will be responsible for crafting a new set of regulations that includes smoking.