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Plaintiffs Aim to Snuff Out Florida Ban on Smokable Medical Marijuana as Key Case Goes to Trial

Posted by Arlin Crisco on May 15, 2018 11:13:00 PM

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Tallahassee, FL—Trial is set Wednesday for a group challenging Florida’s ban on smokable medical marijuana, one of the first attacks on the law enacting a state constitutional amendment legalizing medicinal cannabis. CVN will broadcast the trial live. People United for Medical Marijuana Inc. v. Florida Department of Health 2017-CA-001394.

The one-day bench trial, with Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers presiding, will focus on competing interpretations of the state’s constitution and the legislation intended to give it effect.  

Plaintiffs, including two individuals suffering from chronic illnesses, contend Fla. Stat. § 381.986(1)(j)(2), which excludes smokable marijuana from a legal “medical use,” violates Fla. Const. Art X, § 29. That constitutional provision, plaintiffs note, does not specifically prohibit smokable marijuana in its definition of medical use. And they argue the statute’s definition, by excluding smokable pot, inherently conflicts with the constitutional language regarding the process for obtaining medicinal marijuana.  

The state contends the law is constitutionally valid because neither Art X, § 29 nor the language of Amendment 2, the initiative passed in 2016 by 71 percent of the state’s voters to legalize medical marijuana, requires smokable cannabis be permitted.

Boies Schiller’s Jon L. Mills, representing plaintiffs, told CVN the suit serves to protect the will of the state’s voters. “It’s an important constitutional principle that you can’t draft a statute that is in direct conflict and nullifies the constitution as an expressed will of the people” Mills, who is also dean emeritus and professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, said. “That’s what I believe it all narrows down to.”

A representative from the Florida Department of Health declined to comment on the case citing the pendency of the litigation.

Diana Dodson, a cancer patient, and Cathy Jordan, who has ALS, are the two individual plaintiffs in the case. Last month, Judge Gievers dismissed one of the individual plaintiffs, Roberto Pickering, for lack of contact with attorneys, according to published reports.

The suit, among several cases attacking various provisions of the statute, was originally filed by People United for Medical Marijuana, the group led by Morgan & Morgan’s John Morgan, who spearheaded passage of Amendment 2.  

Trial is expected to begin after cross-motions for summary judgment are heard Wednesday morning. CVN will cover the trial gavel-to-gavel. 

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com

Related Information

Plaintiffs are represented by Jon L. Mills, Marcy Lynch, George Coe, and Karen Dyer, of Boies Schiller & Flexner.

The Florida Department of Health, which enforces the law through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, is represented by Karen Brodeen, Rachel Nordby, and Denise Harle, of the state's Office of Attorney General, according to court records.

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Topics: People United v. Florida Department of Health, Florida