Florida’s Second Circuit Invalidates State Legislature’s Attempt to Ban Use of Smokable Marijuana in Private

Medical marijuana has become more and more widespread and accepted throughout the country and state legislatures have drafted legislation that regulates its use.  However, when a state’s legislature oversteps its limits, the courts must be willing to respond and invalidate such measures.  That’s exactly what happened on Friday, May 25th, 2018, in People United for Medical Marijuana v. Florida Dept. of Health, Index No.: 2017-CA-1394 (2nd Judicial Circuit, Leon County).

In November 2016, Floridians voted to amend their state constitution and allow individuals who suffered from certain medical conditions access to medical marijuana.  The adopted amendment became Section 29, Article X of the Florida Constitution.  The amendment allowed individuals who qualified for use to have safe access to medical marijuana, with the only restriction being an inability to smoke marijuana in public.

No legislation was required to be passed to implement this amendment.  In fact, in passing the amendment, Floridians specified that the legislature could only pass related laws that were consistent with the amendment’s purpose.  As a result, when the legislature attempted to pass a new statute in November 2017 that banned smoking marijuana completely, the plaintiffs in this action sought to have the courts declare the statute unconstitutional on the grounds that the law was inconsistent with the amendment’s purpose.  The court agreed and struck down the legislature’s November 2017 amendment.

The court held that the amendments to the Medical Marijuana Amendment passed by the legislature were inconsistent with the definitions that were already incorporated and thus found them improper.  The court further held that the legislature ignored the restriction on legislative authority.  Ultimately, the court held that the rights enumerated in Section 29, Article X of the Florida Constitute allowed for qualified users to access and consume medical marijuana in any form, with the only restriction being an inability to smoke marijuana in public.  The legislature’s attempt to ban smokeable marijuana completely were overboard and inconsistent with the definitions previously enumerated in Article X of Section 29.  As such, the court declared the legislation invalid and unenforceable.

The court’s decision is a big win for medical marijuana proponents who have shown that when states have already crafted laws that sufficiently regulate the use of the drug, additional steps to restrict access will be held unconstitutional if a legislature oversteps its authority.


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