On Friday, a Florida judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for the state to block its medical marijuana patients from smoking cannabis. But when the state’s lawyers quickly appealed the ruling, Florida medical marijuana advocates turned on the political pressure against the state’s governor in an attempt to get him to drop the appeal.
John Morgan, the Orlando lawyer who has led the medical marijuana effort in Florida since day one, initiated the pressure against Scott by saying he was “playing with political wildfire,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“What should happen is Gov. Scott should say, enough is enough,” Morgan said, while calling for the appeal to be dropped by the state. “This is plain old meanness.”
A big motivator for Morgan is one of his clients, a woman named Cathy Jordan, who has suffered from ALS since the 1980s and who prefers to ingest marijuana by smoking. Florida voters passed a measure to legalize medical cannabis in 2016, but lawmakers then implemented a bill that did not include the right to smoke cannabis — instead legalizing non-smokable cannabis products like oils, tinctures and edibles. Morgan said if the state doesn’t drop the appeal, he will cite his client’s health to get an expedited appeal from the state Supreme Court.
“How much money is the state of Florida going to spend, how many years will go by, and then Cathy Jordan dies and doesn’t get to see what we fought for?” Morgan told reporters.
Morgan went on to cite the tight U.S. Senate race in Florida. Scott is term-limited, so he cannot run to be Florida’s governor again, but he is currently running for the Senate. Most polls have Scott trailing Democrat Bill Nelson by about four points. Morgan argued that if Scott were to drop the appeal, he might take the lead overnight.
“I believe your decision to allow this to go on could have serious, serious ramifications in the election against Bill Nelson,” Morgan said. “I think Gov. Scott has the political chance to make a huge dent. Can you imagine the headlines tomorrow [if he drops the appeal]? … I think he gains five points overnight.”
Florida for Care, one of the organizations participating in the lawsuit to reinstate the right to smoke medical cannabis, told Cannabis Now the actions by the state have taken on a bizarre pattern.
“It was ridiculous that they prohibited smoking medical marijuana in the first place, and it’s ridiculous that they are appealing the very clear ruling from Judge Gievers,” said Director Benjamin Pollara. “Gov. Rick Scott has the power to drop this appeal, and he should do so immediately.”
Marijuana Policy Project Legislative Counsel Kate Bell wasn’t surprised by the state’s move to fight back against last week’s court ruling. “There’s really not much to say about the appeal itself,” Bell told Cannabis Now. “It would be nice if the will of the people had been followed in the first place, but given the parties’ positions in the court case, I would have expected them to appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court of Florida.”
This pressure from Florida medical marijuana advocates all comes after a whirlwind weekend, following Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruling that the initial implementation of the state’s medical marijuana law was unconstitutional. The AP reports that, in the ruling, Gievers noted 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.”
Jordan, the ALS patient who first inspired Morgan to campaign for change, commented to the Orlando Sentinel after Friday’s success. “Many people won’t smoke due to the stigma and it being against the law,” she said by phone from her Manatee County home after the ruling. “This is legitimate medicine. This ruling is not just for me but for many other people.”
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