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Smoke this: John Morgan adds plaintiffs to marijuana lawsuit

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Medical marijuana advocate John Morgan has added three more plaintiffs to his lawsuit against the state, filed after lawmakers refused to allow marijuana to be smoked, according to court filings accessed Wednesday.

Diana Dodson of Levy County, a cancer patient; Catherine Jordan of Manatee County, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease; and Roberto Pickering of Leon County, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder; all qualify to use medicinal cannabis under a constitutional amendment passed last year.

Their names were added to the action this week. Also, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers allowed Morgan an extra 30 days to file an amended complaint in the case, first lodged in July by People United for Medical Marijuana, the political committee behind the amendment.

The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the smoking ban runs counter to the amendment’s language.

Lawmakers recently approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an implementing bill (SB 8-A) for the amendment that does not allow medicinal marijuana to be smoked.

House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored the implementing bill during both the Regular Session and Special Session, has said “we don’t believe you smoke medicine.” Edibles and “vaping” are permitted, however.

“We believe that smoking causes as much harm as the benefits, particularly when we’re offering vaping, which provides all of the benefits and none of the harm,” Rodrigues has said.

“The people of Florida knew exactly what they were voting on,” Morgan told reporters after he filed the suit in Tallahassee. “(T)he vast majority, if not 100 percent, knew that smoke was included … I’m right, and 71 percent of the people of Florida know I’m right.”

Morgan, the Orlando-based attorney and entrepreneur, backed the amendment that was OK’d by 71 percent of voters last year on the statewide ballot.

The lawsuit says the legislative intent of the bill clashes with voter intent expressed in the amendment. For example, a doctor may determine that smoking marijuana gives a particular patient the best benefit of the drug, Morgan said.

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 suit says.

Moreover, since the amendment “does not require that the smoking of medical marijuana be allowed in public,” that means “that smoking medical marijuana in a private place in compliance with the provisions of the amendment is legal.”

Morgan also has cited a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 that “despite decades of marijuana being … smok(ed) in the United States, there have been no reported medical cases of lung cancer or emphysema attributed to marijuana.”

The suit names as defendants the state, the Department of Health, state Health Secretary and Surgeon General Celeste Philip, Office of Medical Marijuana Use Director Christian Bax, the state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, and their respective chairs, James Orr and Anna Hayden.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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