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John Morgan’s suit says smoking pot actually good for the lungs

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Medical marijuana advocate John Morgan says cannabis smoking doesn’t “impair lung function” and even “increase(s) lung capacity,” as part of his lawsuit to be filed against the state Thursday.

Florida Politics on Wednesday night acquired a copy of the 15-page complaint that Morgan says he will file in Leon Circuit Civil court in Tallahassee—against which a leading House Republican has already said the state will prevail.

Morgan, the main backer of the marijuana amendment that passed last year, has said he would sue because lawmakers did not allow medicinal marijuana to be smoked. The named plaintiff, People United for Medical Marijuana, seeks a declaratory judgment allowing such cannabis to be lit and inhaled.

He cited a “study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012” to back up his lung health claim, and added 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.”

Lawmakers recently passed an implementing bill (SB 8-A) for the amendment that did not allow medicinal marijuana to be smoked. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

“We believe we will win (a) lawsuit,” said House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero. He sponsored the House’s version of the implementing bill during both the Regular Session and Special Session this year.

Under the bill, edibles and “vaping” are allowed, but smoking is banned.

“We don’t believe you smoke medicine,” Rodrigues said last month. “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.”

But Morgan’s suit says the legislative intent of the bill clashes with voter intent expressed in the amendment. The medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed last year with just over 71 percent of statewide voters approving the measure.

For example, a doctor may determine that smoking marijuana gives a particular patient the best benefit of the drug.

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 wants a judge to fund that any provision banning smoking is “unenforceable,” and seeks reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”

The suit names 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.

Morgan founded the Morgan & Morgan personal-injury law firm in Orlando. His smiling face is recognizable from ubiquitous billboards, television commercials and even bus advertisements across the state.

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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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