Arguing that Florida legislators violated voters’ intent when they prohibited smoking for the medical use of marijuana, the author of the state’s medical marijuana amendment sued the state on Thursday to throw out the implementing law.
John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who spearheaded the successful campaign to make medical access to cannabis a constitutional right, filed the lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court Thursday morning, asking the court to declare the law implementing the 2016 constitutional amendment unenforceable.
“Inhalation is a medically effective and efficient way to deliver Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other cannabinoids, to the bloodstream,” wrote Morgan and his lead lawyer, Jon Mills, a constitutional lawyer and former Democratic House speaker, on behalf of Florida for Care Inc., the non-profit formed to promote the initiative.
“By redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use’ to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of ‘a licensed Florida physician’ and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process,” the lawsuit states.
More than 71 percent of Florida voters approved the amendment in November 2016, the largest percentage of support a medical marijuana initiative has received by popular vote.
“The statement unambiguously says that smoking medical marijuana in a private place in compliance with the provisions of the amendment is legal,” the suit states.
However, the Florida Legislature passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed, a provision that defines “medical use” to exclude “possession, use or administration of marijuana in a form for smoking.” Morgan’s lawsuit claims that provision “redefined and narrowed the definition of marijuana in direct conflict” with the Constitution.
If the court agrees and invalidates the law implementing the bill, the task of writing the rules for implementing the new amendment will fall to the Florida Department of Health.
The Legislature did allow for edibles and “vaping” as a delivery system for THC and cannabinoids. It also provided funding for the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa to conduct research into the uses and effectiveness of medical marijuana.
The House sponsor of the law, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, called smoking a “backdoor attempt at recreational” use of marijuana.
Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the Senate sponsor, called the measure, which passed during the June special session, “patient-first legislation” that “will expand access to this medicine, while ensuring safety through a unified regulatory structure for each component of the process from cultivation to consumption.”
But Morgan, who uses the hashtag #nosmokeisajoke, argues that smoking is a safe use of the drug. The lawsuit cites a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that found smoking marijuana does not not impair lung function and, when not used heavily, was shown to increase lung capacity.
“Despite decades of marijuana being used for smoking in the United States, there have been no reported medical cases of lung cancer or emphysema attributed to marijuana,’’ the lawsuit said.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes federal funding of marijuana research, blasted the lawsuit as “nothing more than a smokescreen designed to bypass the FDA and open the doors to a new for-profit, retail commercial marijuana industry in Florida.”
“There’s a reason why every single major medical association opposes the use of the raw, smoked form of marijuana as medicine: smoke is not a reliable delivery system, it’s impossible to measure dosage, and it contains hundreds of other chemical compounds that may do more harm than good,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of the group, in a statement.