The (Smoking) Elephant in the Room

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding medical marijuana is “am I allowed to smoke it?” Well, Florida’s medical marijuana regulations currently state that medical marijuana is only available in the processed form, such as an oil, an edible, a topical or vaporized. Whole-flower cannabis is not allowed, which also means, smoking is not allowed. And the most popular follow up question, “am I allowed to grow my own medical marijuana?” Unfortunately, it’s presently illegal to grow your own medical marijuana… unless you’re Joe Redner.

Joe Redner, a 77 year old Tampa man with stage IV lung cancer. A key figure in the medical marijuana debate.Joe Redner, a 77 year old Tampa man with stage IV lung cancer, claims the state is not following the public’s will, and that the state Constitution, as amended by voters, defines marijuana as “all parts of the plant.” So, the question for him is “should he be able to grow and ingest how he (and his doctor) so choose?” Redner’s doctor “recommends” (because we still can’t say prescribed) that the best way for Redner to ingest medical marijuana is through a process called ‘emulsification,’ which is akin to blending or juicing. (Full disclosure, I have never heard the word emulsification until just now.) Regrettably, emulsification is currently illegal under Florida law. However, Redner’s judge, Judge Karen Gievers, believes that emulsification, along with other forms of ingestion, should be both legal and available to patients who need it. Since Florida law doesn’t currently permit that, Redner had to take his case to court and battle for it, while still battling cancer… and Redner won!

After winning such a huge case, one would assume that Redner can finally ingest his medical marijuana per his doctor’s recommendation… Unfortunately, an appellate court, the Court of Appeals, entreated Judge Karen Gievers‘ decision to lift the stay on the case and reinstated it, which took effect immediately. This means despite winning the case, Joe Redner can no longer grow and emulsify his medical marijuana. Despite this setback, Redner is not slowing down; “We’re going to go to the Supreme Court right away; we’re not going to wait,” says Redner, “It’s in the Constitution. I am a patient. I am supposed to be able to get my medicine. I can’t, so I’m going to make them let me have it.”

What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, despite the Court of Appeal, a victory for Redner is a huge victory for all Florida patients and advocates alike. Even though Redner’s case wasn’t about smoking directly, it challenged the various ways of ingesting medical marijuana that are currently illegal. Presently, there are at least three other lawsuits that challenge the state and the amendment’s language regarding forms of ingestion that are currently illegal. One of these cases directly tackles the issue of not being allowed to smoke as a form of ingestion.

In my opinion, the most important thing to remember after Redner’s case is to be patient but assertive. Please, don’t start growing yet; it’s still very illegal… for now…

* For an interesting interview with Joe Redner, check out the Chris Ingram Show with Corey Dylan and LT Lafferty.

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