Florida Lawsuit Aims To Put Medical Marijuana Program Into Gear

In response to the Sunshine State’s lack of a sense of urgency, a lawsuit aims to put Florida’s medical marijuana program into gear.
Florida Lawsuit Aims To Put Medical Marijuana Program Into Gear

A Florida lawsuit aims to put its medical marijuana program into gear. The suit begs the question: how long does it really take to implement a marijuana law? Well, a group of cannabis advocates is trying to find out. The activists, including representatives of the cannabis industry and an epilepsy patient, filed a lawsuit earlier this week. The suit against state health officials suggests that Florida has been dragging its feet when it comes to officially launching its comprehensive medical marijuana program.

Medical Marijuana In Florida

Over a year ago, the majority of voters across the Sunshine State put their seal of approval on a ballot initiative designed to legalize medical marijuana. Since then, there has been nothing but trouble. The state has failed to complete every aspect of the program in a manner that suggests they are taking the law seriously.

Right now, the complaint is about licensing.

The state was supposed to issue 10 cultivation permits by the beginning of October. However, it remains uncertain when that will actually happen. So far, authorities have only approved six licenses. It is for this reason that Miami grower, Bill’s Nursery, and epilepsy patient Michael Bowen are suing the state in federal court.

Their goal? To pressure officials with the Department of Health to get their act together.

The lawsuit argues that the number of medical marijuana treatment centers operating across Florida “has proven inadequate for a state so large in both population and geography.” It goes on to say the limited quality and strain types make the problem worse. This has made it difficult for patients to obtain effective medicine.

The People Behind The Suit

The owners of Bill’s Nursery—Steve, Rusty and Donovan Garrison—say the situation is “personal” for them. The family entered the medical marijuana trade after Steve’s son Matthew sustained a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq. The Garrisons believe that Matthew, who died earlier this year, would have greatly benefited from medical marijuana.

This is just one of the reasons the family has joined forces with Bowen, who made headlines back in April when he suffered a grand mal seizure on the floor of the Florida Senate.

Bowen says his “life is at risk” every day that the state fails to take action.

“Every seizure I get causes brain damage and carries the additional threat of instant death through stroke or cardiac arrest,” Bowen said in a press release. “In cases like mine, medical marijuana is literally the only thing that can control my seizures and keep me alive. But the Florida Department of Health’s inexcusable foot-dragging is keeping patients like me from getting safe, reliable access to these lifesaving treatments.”

The Florida lawsuit aims to put the medical marijuana program into gear. But state health officials insist the department is doing the best it can. 

“The department is working diligently every day to implement the many requirements in Amendment 2 and those set by the Florida Legislature in Senate Bill 8A and are dedicated to ensuring patients have safe access to low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana,” Mara Gambineri, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health, told the Miami New Times. “We remain committed to moving this process forward, and will do so in an expedient and thoughtful manner.”

Final Hit: Florida Lawsuit Aims To Put Medical Marijuana Program Into Gear

The state passed a low-THC law back in 2014. It gave epilepsy patients access to a non-intoxicating strain of the herb known as Charlotte’s Web. However, in 2016, the state changed the law to also allow qualified patients to purchase full-strength cannabis products. But until the state finally implements the program, it is extremely difficult for patients to get the type of medicine that works best with their respective conditions.

The situation is critical. As of now, experts predict that as many as 500,000 people could be enrolled in Florida’s medical marijuana program.

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