Florida’s ban on smokable medical marijuana violates the state constitution, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled Friday.
“Qualifying 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,” she wrote in a 22-page ruling.
A state law banning medical marijuana from being smoked is “invalid and unenforceable,” she continued, calling it in conflict with the constitutional amendment voters approved in 2016 that lets qualified patients legally use the plant.
The Florida Department of Health quickly appealed the ruling, automatically imposing an automatic stay, an agency spokesperson said Friday.
“This ruling goes against what the legislature outlined when they wrote and approved Florida’s law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority,” spokesman David Galetta said in a statement.
Seventy-one percent of Florida voters elected in 2016 to add an amendment to the state constitution that lets patients with certain medical conditions use cannabis, making it one of 29 states and counting with medical marijuana systems currently in place. Lawmakers amended the legislation in 2017 to limit patients to non-smokeable forms of cannabis, however, prompting the People United for Medical Marijuana advocacy group and two patients to file suit.
Recalling the case in Friday’s decision, the judge wrote that state lawmakers relied on “legislative authority to adopt legislation it deems appropriate and necessary to the protection of Florida’s citizens.”
“Just as no person is above the law, the legislature must heed the constitutional rights Floridians placed in the Constitution in 2016,” the judge ruled.
The state’s ban is “not proper, and the statute must be stricken as unconstitutionally inconsistent.”
John Morgan, a marijuana legalization advocate and plaintiff in the lawsuit, tweeted “truth prevails” following Friday’s ruling.
“So many people won’t smoke due to the stigma and it being against the law. This is legitimate medicine,” said Cathy Jordan, a co-plaintiff who uses medical marijuana to treat ALS. “This ruling is not just for me but for many other people,” she told The Associated Press.
The Health Department’s challenge means the case will next be heard by the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, the AP reported.
Marijuana is illegal under federal law, though the Trump administration has refrained so far from pursuing any significant law enforcement operations in states that have legalized the plant for either medical or recreational purposes.
Nine of the 29 states with medical marijuana laws in place have legalized recreational marijuana as well, including six in systems in place for taxing, regulating and selling the plant.
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