TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — May 16, 2018, 10:55 PM ET

Judge to decide Florida ban on smokable medical marijuana


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A Florida judge will soon decide if patients approved to use medical marijuana will be allowed to smoke it.

Leon County circuit court Judge Karen Gievers heard testimony Wednesday from two women with terminal illnesses challenging the state's ban on smoking cannabis.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 allowing the use of medical marijuana. The only mention of smoking in the amendment's language and in an intent document during the 2016 campaign was that the Legislature and local governments could restrict it in public places.

"I don't think you need to be too much of a legal scholar to understand it means it is allowed in other places," said John Morgan, who led the effort to get the constitutional amendment passed.

The Legislature last year passed enacting laws that banned the sale of smoking products, saying that poses a health risk. The laws, which were signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in June, state that patients can use cannabis through vaping and in food, oils, sprays and tinctures.

Jon Mills, who represented the plaintiffs, said in closing arguments that the intent document clearly laid out that private use was not illegal.

"It does allow regulation of amount but not type. Clearly smokable marijuana is a type of marijuana," he said.

Deputy Solicitor General Rachel Nordby, representing the state, deemed the law was constitutional because the Legislature has a role in policing public health concerns.

"This case is not about what is or what is not marijuana. This case is about is the permissible plain uses of marijuana," she said.

One of the women who appeared was Cathy Jordan, who has had ALS since 1986. Jordan told the judge that smoking the plant is the only effective way for her to use it as medicine.

Jordan testified that smoking it dries her excess saliva, increases her appetite and works as a muscle relaxer.

"The edibles cause terrible stomach pain and vaping makes me gag," she said. "Smoking makes my life a lot more bearable."

Jordan said that when she was diagnosed with ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — doctors thought she would live only three to five more years. She credits smoking with helping to prolong her life and has been supported by her physicians.

"Today we saw a woman literally fighting for her life hoping to smoke medical marijuana ... ," Morgan said. "The state of Florida is in fact trying to take her life and so many like her. If I was (Attorney General) Pam Bondi and Rick Scott I'd take a look at this video and say enough is enough. Let's stop the politics and let these people live."

John Tupps, a spokesman for Gov. Scott, said the state's Department of Health has been "working nonstop" to implement the law that was passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

"Implementing Amendment 2 has been delayed by the constant litigation filed by special interests," he said.

Diana Dodson, who has had HIV since 1991, testified that vaping is 50 percent less effective than smoking and that smoking allows her to get the proper dosage needed.

Gievers isn't expected to take much time in ruling on the case. Both sides, though, agree that this is likely the first step in a longer legal battle.

"The judge implied as much herself. Whatever her ruling is, this ain't stopping in Leon County Circuit Court," said Ben Pollara, who runs Florida for Care, a nonprofit medical marijuana advocacy group. "I've always thought we had a strong case. It is in the constitution and pretty clear conflict with the statute."

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  • jenwinn

    As much as I am against Marijuana I think it's time Congress quit being cowards and legalize it. I have a hard time watching shows like live P.D in some states they arrest and face felonies yet just down 2 states it's totally legal.Step up congress and make it legal for all. You sold out to the tobacco companies killing thousands why not this ?

  • Tony Radcliffe-Hung

    Either way, smoking MJ is a whole lot less dangerous to health than smoking tobacco. Since tobacco remains legal, this seems really half-baked (forgive the pun) :)
    Hopefully the judge will make the right call.

  • Tony Radcliffe-Hung

    The irony being that the flower form is the lower concentration (potency) and most challenging to use (it gonna make you cough and sputter for a while). Though I've seen no evidence is more dangerous smoked, it's certainly less potent in flower form vs. concentrates you'd use for vaping.
    Vaping is much more pleasant but also more potent and more complicated than smoking. Sounds like pure ignorance, which we've come to expect from our sunshine state.

  • Dave

    Vape Canibis is heavily modified. It's hardly the same thing as smokeable marijuana.

  • Sidestepping Dave

    Just get politics out of this and make it legal drinking whisky and beer is far worse than pot every will be, but yet booze is legal. NO COMMAN SENSE.!!!

  • bibleexpert

    Jordan testified that smoking it dries her excess saliva, increases her appetite and works as a muscle relaxer... "The edibles cause terrible stomach pain and vaping makes me gag," she said. "Smoking makes my life a lot more bearable."

    And despite the slog toward the inevitable full legalization, the war on pain relief continues.

  • brian nrndss

    let's just open the door and let people grow/smoke their own..........what do you think

  • DK1

    Absolute BS. The voters had clearly spoken, and that was for legal medical marijuana use. Nothing in that vote indicated NOT allowing smoking, and in fact, most people think smoking when they think marijuana. The government is contradicting the clear will of the people...and with no logical, rational basis for doing so.

  • Th3OnlyOn3

    We voted for legalized medical marijuana, not extracts containing THC.

  • James Hurley

    Cannabis serves a holistic, medicinal remedy made from natural herb. Liquor Corporations, Pharmacies, and Cigarette Makers tend to oppose commercial sales.

  • xThatxSamexDudex

    Oh, Florida..