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Politics

'Monumental' Marijuana Case: Florida House Wants a Say

July 16, 2019 - 6:15pm

Florida House leaders should be able to participate in a lawsuit that could revolutionize the state’s medical marijuana market, a lawyer for the Republican-led chamber told a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal Tuesday.

But Tampa-based Florigrown argued that legislators instead should concentrate on fixing the law, aimed at carrying out a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Tuesday’s arguments came a week after a different panel of the same appellate court upheld in part a Tallahassee judge’s decision that the statute, approved by legislators during a special session in 2017, ran afoul of the constitutional amendment.

“When a law is found to be unconstitutional, the Legislature goes and fixes it. They don’t freelance and argue on their own, the constitutionality of what they already wrote. They could have written it in a constitutional way in the first place,” Florigrown CEO Adam Elend told reporters following Tuesday’s hearing.

The House sought to intervene in the legal challenge after Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson sided with Florigrown and ruled that the statute requiring pot operators to grow, process and distribute cannabis and related products --- a system known as “vertical integration --- was unconstitutional. Dodson’s ruling also struck down a portion of the state law that set a cap on the number of medical marijuana operators in the state. But the Tallahassee judge refused to allow the House to join in the lawsuit.

During arguments in the House’s appeal Tuesday morning, however, Judge Brad Thomas openly questioned Dodson’s decision.

“The (constitutional) amendment was a monumental change of the law, in allowing the distribution of a drug that is illegal under federal law, illegal under Florida law except to the extent that it’s authorized by the amendment, and a circuit judge has declared this regulatory scheme invalid. How can the House not be allowed to intervene on the merits of that determination?” Thomas asked Katherine Giddings, a lawyer representing Florigrown.

Giddings said the House waited too long to join the lawsuit, and that the issue was settled by the appellate court on July 9, when a majority of a three-judge panel found that “the statutory language directly conflicts with the constitutional amendment, and appellee (Florigrown) has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success” in procuring a judgment declaring the statute unconstitutional.

The appeals court in part upheld Dodson’s temporary injunction requiring state health officials to begin registering Florigrown and other medical-marijuana firms to do business.

“This is a situation where the legislation is so blatantly unconstitutional,” Giddings said.

But Thomas disagreed, saying the constitutionality of the law will be determined by the appeals court, not the circuit judge.

“It’s not blatantly unconstitutional until we decide whether it is or not,” Thomas scolded.

The appeals court decision, which requires health officials to come up with new regulations, did not result in an overnight upheaval to the state’s pot industry. But it sent shockwaves through Florida’s highly restricted but rapidly growing medical marijuana industry, in which licenses are routinely selling for upwards of $50 million.

And Thomas may have injected even more uncertainty into the state’s cannabis arena on Tuesday, saying the appellate ruling “is not final” because “it’s subject to rehearing.”

In addition, Dodson has yet to rule on the merits of the lawsuit filed by Florigrown, which is partly owned by Tampa strip-club operator Joe Redner.

But Giddings argued that the resolution of the case could be simple.

“All that the Legislature has to do is meet in special session and come up with laws that are constitutional,” she said, again drawing the wrath of Thomas, who was highly skeptical that such a solution would be easy.

The House would have to “try to convince the governor or the Senate president to convene an immediate special session” to address the issue and “attempt to essentially circumvent the trial court’s ruling” and “come up with what you think is constitutional legislation,” the judge said.

“They’re not to be allowed to intervene in the case and defend their policy-making prerogatives,” he said.

But Judge Scott Makar questioned why the House was bothering to intervene in the case, which Makar said would almost certainly wind up before the Florida Supreme Court. The law will remain in place until the legal challenges are resolved, Makar indicated.

“So if we rule for you in this case, where does that get you?” Makar asked Adam Tanenbaum, the House’s general counsel. “In other words, the bus has already left the station on the injunction. You weren’t there.”

The appeals court could revisit its decision upholding Dodson’s temporary injunction, Tanenbaum noted.

“Maybe there’s a rehearing here. We don’t know,” he said. “Hopefully there’s more proceedings that occur in the trial court. The question, is what would we do on intervention if it’s already done, even if it’s back at the trial court. And the answer is, no it’s not done.”

Comments

This goes beyond Government right to the Shadow Government. Big Pharma wants all the profits. Just like they control the FDA now. We can't get affordable drugs from other countries because Big Pharma loses their profit if we do. They don't want cures because only maintenance drugs guarantee their draining of the working American will end. They control healthcare insurance as well. Hundreds of thousands of American's die from this policy just so they can go on stealing from our people. They have politicians in their pockets and they are even too big for our President to control! They are part of the Federal Reserve which owns you and your home for decades with high interest payments. Corruption at the highest level! It is just like Rothschild stated in the early 1900's. Let me control a countries money and I care not who makes it's laws!

cant wait for the day that everyone can grow this plant in their yard :) sell it at the farmers market next to honey or tomatoes :D

That’s never going to happen. The federal gov hasnt kept this illegal for over 50 years to all of a sudden let people grow it and not collect a tax dollar. No way no how.

People need to let go of the "it's just a plant" argument. All it does is hardens the opinions of their opponents and slows down the wheels of progress. I think eventually adults will be allowed to grow it, as a state issue, but most will choose not to because of the hassle.

Amen to that

Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle! I still can't get over seeing Republicans openly peddling pot!

Can you get over Democrats openly peddling baby parts?

Amen

Much ado about nothing.

The law is absolutely unconstitutional---primarily because the House has refused to accept the fact that the voters passed a Constitutional Amendment. The law they passed severely limits the impact of the amendment. Why should they be allowed to intervene in the case when they screwed it up in the first place. Isn't it interesting that the Senate is not trying to intervene. Even if the House gets involved--so what? The same Judge who has already ruled that the law is unconstitutional will decide the case.

Florida House leaders should be ashamed of themselves they are obstructionists have no right in meddling with the will of the voters It's a P L A N T It saves lives Unlike alcohol or cigarettes....where were they then???? On the take of course

What a waste of precious time. It is a spurious argument that cannabis is still illegal under federal law, and yet the federal law is going to be changed, the federal people can no longer continue this prohibition, too many states have chosen to ignore the federal i rationalism, too many people demand that people who choose to use cannabis should not be arrested and denied personal freedom to choose whether to get drunk on alcohol or cannabis.

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