In a widely expected move, an appellate court Monday refused to lift a stay on a Tallahassee judge’s ruling that would allow patients to smoke medical marijuana if their doctors approve it.
The First District Court of Appeal’s decision means that patients will continue to be barred from legally smoking medical marijuana for the foreseeable future — at least until the appellate court issues a final ruling on the merits of the case. Until then, patients who qualify to obtain medical marijuana can use only oils, sprays, tinctures, vaping and edibles.
Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers last month sided with Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan and a group of plaintiffs who filed a legal challenge after the Legislature included a ban on smoking in a 2017 law carrying out a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana.
Gievers agreed that the text of the constitutional amendment, approved by 72 percent of Floridians in 2016, allows patients to use any form of marijuana as their treatment.
Health officials, who argued that the amendment did not expressly authorize smoking and that the state had broad leeway to regulate medical marijuana use, immediately filed an appeal, which put an automatic stay on Gievers’ May 25 ruling.
On June 6, Gievers vacated the stay, prompting the state to ask the appellate court to keep it in place. The court sided with the state on Monday, saying that Gievers’ order vacating the stay was quashed and that the hold “shall remain in effect pending final disposition of the merits of this appeal.”
Whether patients should be able to smoke marijuana if their doctors recommend it has set off a partisan firestorm, with Morgan — a political rainmaker and registered Democrat who largely bankrolled the 2016 campaign for the constitutional amendment — stirring the political pot.