Pubdate: Wed, 16 May 2018
Source: Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Copyright: 2018 Sun-Sentinel Company
Author: Dara Kam


Cathy Jordan credits pot with helping her defeat the odds in the
battle against Lou Gehrig's disease she's waged for more than 30 years.

And although she can now legally obtain the cannabis treatment she's
relied on for decades, Jordan is prohibited from what she and her
doctors swear is the best way for her to consume her medicine --
smoking joints.

Jordan is among the plaintiffs challenging a state law that bans
smoking pot as a route of administration for the hundreds of thousands
of patients who are eligible for medical marijuana treatment in Florida.

With her husband, Bob, serving as her interpreter during a trial
Wednesday, Jordan told Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers and a
packed courtroom that she started smoking pot a few years after she
was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 1986.

"My doctors are really not concerned with the risk because I'm still
alive. In '86, I was given three to five years to live. And I'm still
here," Jordan, draped in a pink shawl, testified.

Wednesday's hearing came more than 18 months after voters
overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment that broadly
legalized marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions
like Jordan.

A judge is deciding whether Floridians should be allowed to consume
medical marijuana by smoking it.

Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers heard arguments Thursday on
whether to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state's ban on smoking.

Lawmakers last year enacted the prohibition on joints largely to
protect the public from the ill effects of smoking, lawyers for the
state argued.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Karen Brodeen said "smoking should
never be a route of administration for any medicinal product."

The prohibition on smoking was included in a state law aimed at
implementing the 2016 constitutional amendment, but John Morgan, the
Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled what was known as
Amendment 2 and initiated the lawsuit, is among those who maintain
that the smoking ban runs afoul of the Constitution. Gievers did not
rule on the challenge Wednesday.

"The amendment itself says smoking is not allowed in public places. I
don't think you need to be too much of a legal scholar to understand
that means it is allowed in other places," Morgan told reporters
before the hearing began.

During arguments Wednesday, Jon Mills, a former House speaker and
former dean of the University of Florida law school who was one of the
chief authors of Amendment 2, told Gievers the law passed last year is
in "irreconcilable conflict" with the Constitution.

Mills also pointed to the Legislature's outlawing of smoking marijuana
as evidence that the Constitution permits it.

"Why would you act to exclude smoking if smoking wasn't authorized?"
he asked.

Lawyers for the state, however, argue that the amendment does not
expressly allow smoking and gives Florida officials broad authority to
"regulate health, safety and welfare" of the public.

"It's not anything goes," Senior Deputy Solicitor General Rachel
Nordby said.

But other routes of administration are problematic for Jordan, who
grows her own marijuana.

Vaping makes her gag. Edibles give her stomach cramps. Smoking gives
Jordan "dry mouth," which offsets the excessive drooling caused by
ALS, she said. And it relaxes her muscles, increases her appetite and
helps combat depression, said the diminutive Jordan, who frequently
breaks out in an infectious smile.

"It just makes my life a lot more bearable," she said.

The constitutional amendment relied on a 2014 definition of marijuana
in Florida criminal law, which includes "all parts of any plant of the
genus Cannabis, whether growing or not." That includes whole-flower
marijuana, which is used for smoking, the plaintiffs contend.

The plaintiffs are also relying on an "analysis of intent" of the
amendment, published prior to the November election and disseminated
broadly to the media and the public, to bolster their argument that
smokable pot always was part of the plan.

Ben Pollara, who was the campaign manager for Amendment 2 and is
president of Florida for Care, a nonprofit organization advocating for
patients and the medical marijuana industry, testified Wednesday that
the public was fully aware that the proposal would have legalized
smoking of medical marijuana.

"It was just assumed by most, if not all, that when we were talking
about marijuana, we were talking about the green, leafy stuff that you
smoke," Pollara, one of the authors of the analysis, said.
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