Judge Karen Gievers, a Leon County Circuit Court judge, has lifted an automatic stay on her May 25 ruling that would allow patients to have access to smokable medical marijuana at dispensaries. The Florida Department of Health were charged with creating the regulations governing medical marijuana in Florida. However, Governor Rick Scott and the department appealed her ruling, effectively banning patients from having access to the plant. This was the second time Florida legislature placed a ban on smokable marijuana. The plant was legalized for medical use in November 2016 under Amendment 2. Over 71 percent of the population voted in favor of legalizing the plant for medicinal use. After the bill was approved, however, legislature revoked the public’s rights to access smokable medical marijuana, claiming it created a “backdoor attempt” for legalizing the plant for recreational use.
History of the Ban on Smokable Cannabis
On May 25, after hearing testimony for two medical marijuana patients with terminal diseases, Gievers ruled that it was unconstitutional to outlaw the use of smokable forms of the plant. Both patients, one who had HIV and the other who had ALS, claimed that smoking the plant was the only way they experienced relief and the only method their systems could tolerate. Up until then legislature had limited patients to only being allowed to legally purchase the plant as an oil, spray, tincture, concentrate for vaping or as edibles. However, smoking is preferable for many patients as it doesn’t require digestion or absorption in another way that may be problematic for patients with nausea and other issues. For a second time, however, the state took action against the will of the public, appealing the ruling and initiating an automatic stay.
Why the Ban Was Turned On Its Head
This week, Gievers lifted the automatic stay, stating that the appeal has already caused harm to patients who need to procure the medication illegally. “First, they cannot legally access the treatment recommended for them,” Gievers wrote in her ruling. “Second, they face potential criminal prosecution for possession and use of the medicinal substance.” She has given the Department of Health until the 11th of June to put into place a system that will allow patients to have access to smokable medical marijuana in dispensaries.
Reaction to the Ruling
The Department of Health has still not issued any response that indicates a plan to move forward and regulate smokable marijuana. However, they did release a statement that focused on the law that bans the plant.
Orlando attorney John Morgan who has been leading the charge on marijuana reform tweeted his frustration at the Governor Rick Scott’s opposition of the plant, stating, “#SlickRick please follow the law & the will of 72% of the people. Everyday you waste taxpayers’ money w/ this frivolous appeal sick people, veterans, cops, firefighters & cancer patients suffer! Where is your compassion man?”
Gievers stated that medical marijuana patients must have a qualifying disorder recognized by the state and be on the patients registry under the care of a licensed doctor. Should they qualify, the judge has called it unconstitutional to deny them access to their medication.