TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Florida’s move to ban registered patients from smoking cannabis has burned out.
Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled the ban enacted by state officials is unconstitutional. The Florida Department of Health has appealed ruling, triggering an automatic stay of the policy.
Gievers wrote in her decision that patients “have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for treatment of their debilitating medical conditions as recommended by their certified physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places.”
Taylor Patrick Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida agreed with Gievers and said that “despite legislative pushback over interpretation and ideologies, justice has been served.”
Voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2 in November 2016, which legalized medicinal cannabis use and altered the Florida state constitution. Amendment 2 only briefly mentions smoking the cannabis plant. However, the amendment gives local authorities the right to ban smoking cannabis in public places and address patients smoking in private.
Last year, the Florida legislature enacted a regulation that banned smokeable cannabis products on the basis that they are unhealthy. It was then signed by Governor Rick Scott. The regulations still permitted topicals, vapes, oils, tinctures, and edibles.
Attorney John Morgan, who was instrumental in pushing awareness for Amendment 2, filed a lawsuit against the smoking ban two weeks after it was enacted.
Morgan was joined by two patients, Cathy Jordan and Diana Dodson. Jordan, who suffers from ALS claims that smoking cannabis reduces excess saliva and helps increase her appetite. Dodson, who has been living with HIV since 1991, says she feels that vaping is 50 percent less effective than smoking cannabis flower.
Jordan was told that she would likely only live another three to five years when she was diagnosed with ALS in 1986. She feels that smoking cannabis has extended her life.
“So many people won’t smoke due to the stigma and it being against the law. This is legitimate medicine,” she said by phone from her Manatee County home after the ruling. “This ruling is not just for me but for many other people.”
Florida Department of Health spokesman Devin Galetta said in a statement that the ruling “goes against what the legislature outlined when they wrote and approved the law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved.”
The case will now be referred to Florida’ 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee.