All signs pointed to new Florida Governor Ron DeSantis withdrawing the State’s appeal on allowing smokable marijuana yesterday after his inauguration, but the highly contested decision is still on hold.
The appeal came after Tallahassee Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled a 2017 law banning the distribution and consumption of smokable cannabis was unconstitutional and was therefore overturned. However, immediately following that ruling the State of Florida filed its appeal.
The case moved forward Tuesday with State attorneys arguing in favor of upholding the 2017 ban, commenting that it was the right decision to ban smoking due to its possible negative side effects. Deputy Solicitor General Jordan Pratt was quoted saying, “The amendment does not in any instance guarantee immunity for smoking marijuana”. The Department of Health also had lawyers present defending the ban.
One appellate Judge, Timothy Osterhaus did raise questions concerning the Legislature’s authority to implement these changes to the amendment. He further inquired as to the distinction between smoking and other methods of consumption that have not been banned.
Osterhaus questioned, “Could they have decided that all ways are unsafe?”
Pratt retorted citing that the law currently allows for multiple other means of consumption and that it was unlikely that they would have been able to ban all types of treatment administration.
Osterhaus was also concerned about the future for Florida’s voters, asking, “if they’ve [voters] gone through the process of amending their Constitution, and the Legislature decides, ‘No, we’re not going to go for that and we’re going to veto what you’ve passed?”. Raising possible red flags warning about what this could mean for legislation still to come.
Pratt once again fired back stating, their focus “begins and ends with just one question, which is whether the amendment requires smoking of marijuana”, adding, “there’s simply nothing in the amendment that says that”. Using the amendment’s broad language regarding legalization against it, and leaving it up to interpretation.
One person fighting the appeal also happens to be one of the people responsible for assisting in the writing of the amendment, Jon Mills. Once a dean for the law school at University of Florida, Jon is now claiming that the 2017 law written in response to the amendment is directly conflicting with the Constitution. He states that the Constitution clearly authorizes doctors to order prescriptions of smokable cannabis for qualifying patients, but the law restricts this entirely. He follows up by saying that this is no minor conflict and that if one treatment method could be banned, more could follow.
Another advocate and plaintiff in this case for smokable marijuana is Cathy Jordan. She claims that doctors predicted she was going to die decades ago as a result of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but says smoking cannabis on a daily basis is the reason she is still alive. Last year she testified to the fact that smoking as the method of consumption treats her ailments in a way that other methods simply do not.
Mills added, “Cathy Jordan is not trying to have a good time, she’s trying to live. And what works for her is what she and her doctor agreed upon, and that was smoking”. Making it clear that this conflict is “irreconcilable”, end of story.
DeSantis seems to have different views on the consumption of smokable marijuana than his predecessor, Rick Scott which had strongly opposed the subject. When DeSantis spoke with media outlets Monday he mentioned that he was “not committed” to upholding the ban.
He went on to say that he understands that roughly 72 percent of voters are behind this issue and his willingness to stand behind the decision of those voters; stating, “we are going to be taking actions that are consistent with what I said in the campaign” and, “once the vote happens, you’ve got to move on. So we’ll take some actions within a pretty short time”.
These statements by DeSantis seem to continue to point to his withdrawal from the appeal, but only time will tell as we continue to await this monumental decision in Florida.