Medical marijuana introduced; patient advocate raided hours later
On February 27, 2013, shortly after Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) filed SB 1250, which would exempt seriously ill Floridians from criminal penalties for using marijuana with their doctors’ recommendations, the bill’s namesake – Cathy Jordan – was raided by the Manatee County Sheriff's Department. Fortunately, neither Ms. Jordan nor her husband – who together cultivate marijuana for Cathy to use to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease – will be charged with a crime because they clearly had a medical defense available to them. Regardless, patients like Cathy should not be subject to arrest in the first place. If you live in Florida, please email your legislators today and ask them reject this madness by supporting medical marijuana; they’d join 70% of Floridians who do so as well.
The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, which has also been introduced in the House by Rep. Katie Edwards (D – District 98), would allow patients with certain qualifying medical conditions, or their officially designated caregivers, to possess up to four ounces of marijuana and grow up to eight marijuana plants. It would require the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities. Florida should stop treating the sick and suffering like criminals; ask your legislators to support SB 1250 and HB 1139.
Courts reject suspicionless drug testing law
The 2011 law signed by Gov. Scott requiring new applicants for temporary welfare assistance funded by the TANF to undergo, and pay for out of pocket, mandatory and suspicionless drug tests continues to face many welcome challenges and bad press. The ACLU sued to enjoin implementation of the law, and it was temporarily suspended in October of 2011.
A federal court of appeals upheld the decision. The state has appealed that decision, and a hearing is expected in the coming months. In the meantime, early reports indicate that the law, when it was in effect, ended up costing the state more money than it saved, which is ironic considering cost savings was an argument used to justify the need for the law.
The only other state that has passed a mandatory and suspicionless drug testing program for public assistance is Michigan. A federal appeals court struck down Michigan’s law in 2002 for being a constitutional violation of an individual’s right to privacy and their Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches. Fortunately, this precedent supports the ACLU’s claim that Florida’s new law will not pass constitutional muster. Unfortunately, it requires a legal challenge that will take time and money.
Court established defense
Despite the fact that a medical necessity defense has been established by Florida case law, patients remain at risk of being arrested and jailed because legislators have yet to enact a medical marijuana law. To review a 1991 case that outlines Florida's medical necessity defense, click here.
Harsh penalties put everyone at risk
Although Florida courts, public opinion, and 16 other states (and D.C.) reflect a trend that recognizes the legitimate use of medical marijuana, Florida patients remain exposed to the state's harsh possession laws. Every single medical marijuana patient in Florida continues to live in fear because Florida's penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana are among the nation's toughest. Please email your legislators and ask them to introduce legislation to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. You can read more about Florida's draconian marijuana laws and their impacts here.
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project. If you have any questions concerning the status of marijuana policy reform in Florida, you can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive news about Florida marijuana policy reform as it happens, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service, if you haven't done so already.