Joe Redner is rich enough to buy the necessary marijuana plants that will keep his Stage 4 lung cancer at bay on the black market.
Instead, the 77-year-old Tampa strip club owner has decided to spend his wealth suing the state of Florida to uphold the promise of Amendment 2 and get everyone full access to the entire cannabis plant.
"I hear from people every single day, over and over, who can't afford this medicine," he says. "They can't afford it on the black market either. They're just dying. They want to grow their own marijuana at home. ... I sued to get the government to do what they're supposed to do."
A Tallahassee judge agreed and ruled last week that Redner could legally grow his own marijuana.
The order from Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers currently only applies to Redner, who will be allowed to harvest marijuana "solely for the purpose of his emulsifying the biomass he needs for the juicing protocol recommended by his physician." Redner, who is a vegan, needs to liquefy the raw plant and drink eight ounces of cannabis juice daily to keep his cancer in remission, as recommended by his doctor. For that, Redner needs about 40 plants in various stages of maturation, his lawyer Luke Lirot says.
But the Florida Department of Health said that under state law, registered medical marijuana patients were not allowed to grow their own cannabis. State rules also prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from selling whole plants or flowers.
Lirot argues Amendment 2 provides Redner immunity from criminal and civil penalties for growing his own marijuana for medical use because it defines legal cannabis as "all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin."
In her ruling, Gievers said the state Health Department was "non-compliant" with the requirements set by voters who approved Amendment 2 for expanded medical marijuana use in Florida.
"The Court finds that Florida's Constitution provides Mr. Redner's right to grow his own medical marijuana so he can follow his physician's recommendation," Gievers wrote in her ruling. "Until and unless the [Florida Department of Health] stops violating its Constitutional duty and adopts the mandated presumptive regulation, the evidence clearly demonstrates that Mr. Redner is entitled to follow the recommendations of his certified physician."
As of press time, the state Health Department has filed an appeal, which placed an automatic stay on Gievers' ruling, but Lirot has filed a motion to vacate the stay in Redner's medical interests.
Lirot says his client has always been someone willing to put himself into constitutional battles, mainly for the adult entertainment industry. In Tampa, he's known as the "father of the nude lap dance."
"The way he describes chemotherapy was absolutely painful," Lirot says. "He's told me, 'Marijuana was the only relief I had. It was all I could to do make myself feel remotely human because of the agony of chemotherapy.' He thought it was only appropriate to put effort and money and make the sacrifice of being a plaintiff to get it for other people."
Redner says he won't stop until all Floridians have access to medical marijuana.
"There's still people that can't grow their own," he says. "I'm not gonna celebrate until we get to the end."