Joe Redner wants to juice his own marijuana, harvested from his back yard.
The 77-year-old strip club owner with stage 4 lung cancer already has a recommendation from his state-certified physician to do it. But the Florida Department of Health won’t let him.
In an unprecedented lawsuit challenging the state’s interpretation of Amendment 2 and asserting what he says is his own constitutional right, Redner is fighting to grow medical marijuana from his home in Tampa. After months of litigation against the health department, ending in a short trial last month, the judge is expected to rule any day.
But whatever the outcome, Redner’s case could pave the way for other advocates. His is just the first of several lawsuits aimed at giving patients greater access to the alternative medicine that more than 70 percent of Floridians voted for in 2016.
“Hopefully some of this litigation will give more patients the access they want and deserve,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of marijuana advocacy organization Florida for Care and one of the authors of the medical marijuana amendment. “That was the whole point of passing the law.”
The outspoken Redner and other critics across the state say the health department continues to create barriers for more than 95,000 registered patients in Florida that could benefit from marijuana.
“The amendment doesn’t distinguish between the types of medical marijuana,” says Luke Lirot, the Clearwater attorney representing Redner. “It’s been six months and the department of health still hasn’t adopted very basic regulations. It’s difficult right now because doctors don’t know what they’re dealing with yet in terms of regulation.”
Redner’s suit claims the state is not following the public’s will, and says the state Constitution, as amended by voters, defines marijuana as “all parts of the plant.”