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In June 2017, Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed a bill to implement a medical marijuana program. One unusual feature of the bill is that it banned smoking marijuana but did allow the vaporizing of oils and extracts. This June, a judge struck down the smoking ban.

Why ban smoking?

As reported in the Huffington Post, the reason for the no-smoking rule is easy to explain. Scott has faced no shortage of accusations of financial misdealing, and the no-smoking rule benefited two people closely connected to him: siblings Christian and Laura Bax. The Bax family is well-connected in Florida politics. With little to recommend him to the position on his resume, Christian became the Director for the Office of Compassionate Use (OCU), the entity charged with creating Florida’s medical marijuana law. At 27, Laura became Scott’s judicial appointment coordinator. Christian, a brother, and their father James own a company that sells oils, extracts, and vaporizers, along with CBD. James Bax also owns a drug-testing lab that has an exclusive contract with the state. Scott, who has received large campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies, was previously an opponent of legalization, as are pharmaceutical companies.

As soon as the law was passed, the no-smoking rule was challenged in court. John Morgan, an attorney and advocate for medical marijuana in the state, led the legal fight against the ban. Others opposing the ban in court include Florida for Care and People United for Medical Marijuana. Opponents of the ban offered evidence of patients whose illnesses made smoking the most practical and effective means of receiving treatment.

“Having considered the relevant testimony and other evidence and the witnesses’ demeanor, credibility, frankness, and lack of frankness…the court finds that the statute is invalid because it conflicts with the Florida Constitution,” the ruling of Judge Karen Gievers reads in part. Her ruling also cites the language of the voter-approved initiative that led to the legislature’s passage of Florida’s medical marijuana law. The initiative says that “all types of medical marijuana” are to be legal. Governor Scott received 48 percent of the vote in his election, while the initiative received 72 percent.

The judge also reminded the government of Florida of its the role “in making sure that those who need marijuana for treatment of their pertinent medical issues are able to have safe access to it, without restriction except that there is no right to smoke in public places.” The Florida government has already appealed the ruling. Morgan responded to the government’s continuation of the fight with a tweet that ends with a quote from the ruling in the case, in which government agencies were the defendants:

“#SlickRick please follow the law & the will of 72% of the people. Everyday you waste taxpayers’ money w/ this frivolous appeal sick people, veterans, cops, firefighters & cancer patients suffer! Where is your compassion man? ‘There is no likelihood of success by the defendants.’”

Under Florida’s medical marijuana law, those suffering from a variety of illnesses, including cancer, Crohn’s Disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and PTSD may receive doctors’ recommendations. Since implementation in 2017, more than 100,000 patients have received recommendations.

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About the Author: Eric Howard

Eric Howard, who lives in Los Angeles, is a staff writer for Marijuana and the Law. His most recent book, Taliban Beach Party, appeared in 2017.

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