Florida Judge Repeals Ban on Smokeable Medical Marijuana


The state of Florida can no longer ban medical marijuana patients from smoking cannabis, a judge ruled Friday. But the Florida Health Department is appealing the judge’s decision. Caught between are Florida’s medical marijuana patients, who say the state legislature is placing unconstitutional restrictions on access to their medicine.

Florida Judge Says Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban Is Unconstitutional

In 2016, Florida voters approved Amendment 2. The constitutional amendment became effective on January 3, 2017. It expanded Florida’s list of qualifying medical conditions, but also placed restrictions on smoking medical marijuana.

Specifically, the language in the bill and an “intent document” circulating during the 2016 lead up to the vote did mention smoking marijuana, but only in very limited terms. The bill states that the Florida legislature and local governments could ban medical cannabis smoking in public places.

Last year, however, the state Legislature ended up passing laws banning the sale of smokeable medical cannabis products. The Legislature viewed smoking cannabis a health risk. However, the bill, signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in June, still allowed patients to use cannabis in food, as an oil or spray, or vaporized.


Just two weeks after Gov. Scott signed the legislation, Orlando attorney John Morgan filed a lawsuit to challenge the smoking ban. Morgan was a key player in the movement to legalize medical cannabis in Florida.

But on Friday, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the state’s ban on smokeable medical marijuana violated patients’ constitutional rights, according to the Associated Press

In her 22-page ruling, Judge Grievers wrote that Floridians, “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.”

Florida Court’s Ruling Is Major Win For Medical Cannabis Patients

Despite Judge Griever’s ruling that a ban on smoking medical cannabis was unconstitutional, the Florida Health Department is appealing the ruling. And that appeal has placed a temporary stay on the decision while the state goes through the appeal process.


Still, medical cannabis supporters and patient advocates are praising the judge’s ruling as a major win for patients in Florida.

“Despite legislative pushback over interpretation and ideologies, justice has been served,” said Taylor Patrick Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

In his lawsuit, John Morgan used testimony from two terminally ill patients who say smoking medical cannabis has dramatically improved their quality of life.

Both plaintiffs said in court that currently permitted methods of cannabis consumption are not as effective as smoking.

Diana Dodson, who has been HIV-positive since 1991, testified that vaping cannabis was 50 percent less effective than smoking. She also said that smoking cannabis allows her to use the proper dosage for her symptoms.


Additionally, Cathy Jordan, who has suffered from Lou Gherig’s disease since 1986, says that smoking alone can help her symptoms. ALS patients suffer from excess saliva, low appetite, and muscle pains. Smoking medical cannabis, Jordan testified, dries her excess saliva, increases her appetite and relaxes her muscles.

“This is legitimate medicine,” Jordan told the Orlando Sentinel over the phone. “This ruling is not just for me but for many other people.”

Indeed, Jordan’s husband Bob said he was still in shock after the ruling. “A little women with ALS took on the state and won,” he said. ‘That’s an amazing thing. It is kind of surreal.”

Judge Griever is keeping the Florida appeals courts busy with marijuana cases. Her ruling that a ban on smokeable medical cannabis was unconstitutional is in fact the second medical marijuana case sent to an appeals court this year.

The next stop for the case involving the prohibition on smoking medical cannabis is the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee this year. But Griever’s argument maintains that since the state banned public smoking, smoking in private was implicitly appropriate and consistent with Amendment 2.

Pennsylvania to Make Whole-Plant Cannabis Flower Available to Patients


Dry leaf cannabis is coming to Pennsylvania dispensaries following a decision by the state Department of Health, which on Monday approved a move to make whole-plant cannabis flower available to state medical marijuana patients.

The move is expected to lower costs and improve patient access to cannabis, which went on sale to qualified patients in February. The program currently permits only oils and concentrates.

“Dry leaf or flower will be sold in Pennsylvania dispensaries in a form that can be vaporized, not smoked, later this summer.”

Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Health Secretary

Smoking cannabis would still be prohibited under the new rule, which is aimed at allowing patients to vaporize the plant. But while state law prohibits dispensaries from selling products designed to be smoked, patients advocates such as Chris Goldstein have pointed out that cannabis flower sold for vaping could also be smoked.

Still, the law is clear: “Dry leaf or flower will be sold in Pennsylvania dispensaries in a form that can be vaporized, not smoked, later this summer,” Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement. But in practice, the two forms are indistinguishable, and it’s not clear what measures, if any, the state may take to prevent patients from smoking the plant.

Other changes approved by the Health Department would expand the list of qualifying conditions, eliminate the need for patients to pay for a medical cannabis ID card more than once per year, allow doctors to opt-out of a public list of registered physicians, and require children’s recommendations to be certified by a pediatrician or pediatric specialist.

Only a few states have adopted medical cannabis programs that explicitly forbid the sale of smokable flower. Some that have, such as Minnesota, have struggled to attract patients or move them out of the illicit market. Others, such as Florida, have been hit with legal challenges.



Minnesota Medical Cannabis Providers Run $11M in Red

“Allowing cannabis in its natural, flower form and expanding the list of qualifying conditions will have a huge positive impact on seriously ill Pennsylvanians,” Becky Dansky, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. The advocacy group said that the current restriction on whole-plant cannabis has led to product shortages and “prohibitively expensive” medicine across the state.

In Florida, where the state’s medical cannabis law prohibits smokable flower, a judge last week ruled that a 77-year-old man could grow his own cannabis for juicing. None of the treatment centers licensed in that state currently offer whole-plant or juicing products, yet a doctor recommended cannabis juice as part of treatment to prevent a relapse of stage-four lung cancer.

A separate lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on smokable forms of cannabis is scheduled to go to trial next month.



John Morgan Sues to Overturn Florida’s Smokeable-Cannabis Ban

In Pennsylvania, the changes approved by Health Department are set to take effect on May 12, when the agency promulgates official regulations.

“By being able to provide medical marijuana in plant form, producers will be able to get medicine into the hands of patients much more quickly and for much lower cost to patients,” Dansky said. “This is vitally important for patient access right now while the program is still getting off the ground and production is not yet at full capacity. We hope these rules are promulgated as quickly as possible so even more patients will be able to find relief.”

According to the state government, more than 30,000 patients have registered to participate in the medical cannabis program, with more than 10,000 having received ID cards and purchased cannabis at a dispensary. Nearly 1,000 physicians have registered for the program, with more than half of those having been certified.

Recreational Marijuana Isn’t Legal in Florida


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Recreational marijuana isn’t legal in Florida, despite a widely shared online report that the Legislature had passed a measure legalizing use.

The website yourdailyideas, in a story dated from Orlando, Florida, reported lawmakers had agreed on legalization to “jump-start the economy.”

First, Florida’s Legislature and governor are based in the capital, Tallahassee. And lawmakers did not act on any recreational marijuana bills, said Karol Molinares, deputy communications director for the Florida House of Representatives’ Democratic Office.

Seventy-one percent of Florida voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment for the legalization of medical marijuana. Lawmakers produced a bill in the next session to implement rules and regulations. However, Molinares said lawmakers couldn’t agree on the number of retail locations that would be allowed to open.

The Department of Health has been tasked with drawing up and implementing new rules.

Marijuana for medical use has been available in the state to those who qualify; registered patients in the state have had access to medical marijuana since 2017.

This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.