Meet Joe Redner. Redner is 77-years-old and owns a strip club. He has stage IV lung cancer.
And he is also the only person in Florida with permission to legally grow marijuana in his home, a distinction granted to him by a judge on April 11.
Florida is a hugely significant part of America’s legal marijuana scene. The state is as full with conservative-leaning voters as with senior citizens, two segments of the population with whom legal cannabis tends to be the least popular. Florida’s medical-marijuana era is still in its prelude stages, 18 months after more than 70 percent of voters approved Amendment 2.
There are 95,000 patients registered with the state Department of Health who can legally access cannabis, but only cannabis grown by one of 13 private companies under the aegis of the state. Cannabis can then only be acquired in edible, topical or vaporized form.
Cannabis flower is not allowed, and neither is home grow. This is a restriction that will sound peculiar and draconian to denizens of the West Coast, where the right to plant a home garden is enshrined in state law, but one all too familiar to residents of states where medical marijuana is a recent innovation.
The stated reason behind a ban on home grow is to prevent black-market marijuana activity — you know, the kind of black-market activity that makes cannabis the world’s most popular illicit drug in the places where it is illegal.
In practice, the ban appears to do very little to stamp out cannabis’s popularity, while forcing legal patients to choose from a limited supply of product, for which they must pay exorbitant prices.
In Redner’s case, patients can expect to pay up to $400 a month for their marijuana supply, according to the Tampa Bay Tribune. Redner’s preferred method involves juicing the plant. This is something he cannot do within the rules laid out by the Department of Health, despite his right to medical cannabis enshrined in the state constitution.
Medical-marijuana patients in New York, Pennsylvania and other states where home grow is banned and where the number of allowed cultivators is strictly limited are in similar situations.
In Florida, at least, that could change thanks to Joe Redner, attorneys and advocates believe.
At the moment, the ruling in Redner’s case currently applies only to him. Practically and technically, it doesn’t apply at all, as the Department of Health immediately appealed the ruling.
Redner’s attorney is working to lift the stay on Redner’s permission while the case winds through the appeals process (his client is dying, after all, and the case is a lock to end up in the state Supreme Court). In the meantime, the belief is that Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers’s ruling will set a precedent.
Other challenges to restrictions in Florida’s cannabis law are pending. One, attacking the state’s ban on smokable cannabis, filed by Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, the main bankroller of the medical marijuana voter initiative, may be heard soon.
“Hopefully some of this litigation will give more patients the access they want and deserve,” Ben Pollara, executive director of marijuana advocacy organization Florida for Care and one of the authors of Florida’s medical-marijuana law, told the Tampa Bay Times. “That was the whole point of passing the law.”
What still remains to be seen is if Redner will live long enough to consume any home-grown. “Every day counts with cancer,” said Luke Lirot, Redner’s attorney, in comments to the Tampa Bay Times. “This is medicine… you can’t get back the days of treatment you lose.”
TELL US, do you think people should be allowed to grow their own marijuana?