Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office filed a 57-page brief
last week supporting Florida's ban on smokable medical marijuana, challenging an earlier ruling from a circuit judge.
Back in May, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled that a smoking ban was unconstitutional and violated the spirit of the 2016 amendment overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters that legalized medical marijuana. The lawsuit was filed by two medical marijuana patients and People United for Medical Marijuana, an advocacy organization backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan.
Gievers found that the "ability to smoke medical marijuana" was an implied right because the 2016 amendment noted there was "no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places consistent with the amendment."
But Bondi's office argued before the First District Court of Appeal last Friday that the earlier ruling "misconstrued the plain language of the medical marijuana Amendment, disregarded relevant expert testimony detailing the negative health effects of smoking marijuana, and misapplied other relevant legal principles regarding constitutional interpretation and standing," according to the brief.
The brief asserts that legislative discretion is allowed under the 2016 amendment to define "medical use." The term is broadly defined as "the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of an amount of marijuana not in conflict with Department rules," but it does not include any mention of smoking. Bondi's office said Florida lawmakers "considered important health and safety factors" when they decided to ban smokable medical cannabis in 2017.
"Notably, the Legislature considered evidence of the health hazards of smoking and concluded that smoking marijuana constitutes a harmful
delivery method," the brief
stated. "Time and again during debate, elected members of Florida’s Legislature emphasized that the amendment is exclusively about medicine, and that smoking is antithetical to good medicine. In considering these health-related factors, the Legislature reasonably determined that the harms caused by smoking – including harms to patients and those exposed to secondhand smoke – were ample reason to exclude smoking from the statutory definition of 'medical use.' The
Legislature therefore acted under its general authority to regulate public health, safety, and welfare when it drew a reasonable line between the smoking of medical marijuana, and other delivery methods."
The Legislature considered scientific research that smoking is "carcinogenic, causes lung damage, exacerbates asthma and bronchitis, and propagates dangerous second-hand smoke," according to Bondi's office.
On Twitter, Morgan called the state's appeal a "waste of taxpayer money."
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