Florida medical marijuana patients received some good news yesterday as a circuit court judge ruled that the state ban on smoking marijuana is unconstitutional. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers wrote in her 22-page ruling that, Florida medical marijuana 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.” The Florida Department of Health immediately filed for an appeal which placed a stay on the ruling for the time being.
When medical marijuana became available in Florida in 2017 after voters approved it in 2016, there were a lot of puzzled looks. Everyone wondered where exactly the medical marijuana was. There were no stores open down the street or even within a reasonable driving distance. When patients finally did track down a dispensary, (what Florida refers to as a medical marijuana treatment center) there was still no marijuana. Instead, what they found were small cartridges of expensive oil with a battery, and introduced to the concept of vaping.
There were many contributors to the referendum question that was added to the November ballot in 2016, but no one in Florida is recognized for their effort more than John Morgan, the influential lawyer out of Orlando. He helped phrase the referendum question so that state legislators would have no confusion over whether to allow the smoking of medical cannabis. The question simply stated that towns could restrict smoking cannabis in public.
Instead, the state elected officials that opposed the legalization of medical cannabis, like House Majority Leader Ray Rodriguez, immediately banned the smoking of medical marijuana for all patients everywhere. They cited health reasons for not allowing people to smoke marijuana, but were immediately slapped with a lawsuit by John Morgan, along with a number of medical marijuana patients. Morgan did warn the state of Florida he would sue if legislators banned smoking before they finalized rules.
The end result is that a year after medical marijuana was supposed to be made available to patients, this decision by the circuit court judge may breathe life back into Florida’s medical marijuana program. Over a year of Florida struggling to issue licenses to its registered medical marijuana patients, access to only expensive cannabis oil for vaping, high delivery costs, expensive medical marijuana doctor visits and state fees has left the sunshine state with a much more stagnant industry than anyone foretasted. Some analysts projected that the Florida cannabis market would be worth more than $1 billion by 2020, but in its current state that seems unlikely.
Access to marijuana flower for patients likely means that costs drop substantially for both consumers and the dispensaries. The production of cannabis oil is very expensive as opposed to selling the dried flower. It does not mean that there is not a place for cannabis oil. For many patients, vaping medical marijuana oil is more than sufficient to treat their conditions and is a healthier option that inhaling smoke. However, many people feel that the negative health effects of smoking cannabis are overstated and that the only way they can receive the true medicinal benefits of medical cannabis is through smoking.