Florida: Court Strikes Down Legislative Ban On Medical Cannabis Smoking

A Florida Circuit Court judge ruled today that a legislatively enacted ban on the smoking of medical cannabis in private by qualified patients is unconstitutional.

Lawmakers in 2017 passed Senate Bill 8A — which sought to amend provisions in Amendment 2, a voter initiated constitutional amendment permitting the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. Specifically, SB 8A prohibited the possession of marijuana “in a form for smoking” and barred the use of herbal cannabis except in instances where it is contained “in a sealed tamper-proof receptacle for vaping.” Seventy-one percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2 in November 2016.

Backers of Amendment 2, including the group Florida for Care and longtime medical activist Cathy Jordan, challenged the ‘no smoking’ ban — arguing that lawmakers improperly sought to overrule the will of the electorate. Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers today ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

“Section 381.986, Florida Statutes (2017) unconstitutionally restricts rights that are protected in the Constitution, and so the statutory prohibition against the use of smokeable marijuana permitted by [a] qualifying patient is declared invalid and unenforceable,” the judge ruled. “Qualifying patients have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for [the] treatment of their debilitating medical condition as recommended by their certified physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places.”

NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or restrict patients’ access to whole plant herbal cannabis. Many patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms do not benefit from cannabis-infused pills, tinctures, or edibles because they possess delayed onset compared to inhaled cannabis and are far more variable in their effects.

“This ruling is a victory for Florida voters and, in particular, Florida’s patient community,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “These legislatively enacted restrictions arbitrarily sought to limit patients’ choices in a manner that violated the spirit of the law, and cynically sought to deny patients the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.”

The Court’s opinion in the case: People United for Medical Marijuana et al v. Florida department of Health et al., appears online here.


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