Florida Supreme Court Listens to Arguments on Medical Marijuana

Posted on December 16, 2013 by Jeffrey Feiler

On December 5 the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments for and against United for Care's proposed amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. If the Court approves the ballot language of the amendment there is a strong chance that Floridians will be able to vote on medical marijuana in November of 2014.

If the amendment passes, it would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana under Florida law to patients with debilitating medical conditions who are registered under the Florida Department of Health. It would also allow registered businesses to manufacture and sell medical marijuana.

The State argued that the ballot summary, limited to 90 words by the Florida legislature, does not accurately portray the language of the amendment. In particular, the State argues that under the amendment a doctor would be authorized to prescribe medical marijuana for almost any condition he believes the benefits would outweigh the risks. It would make Florida one of the most lenient medical marijuana states.

United for Care argues that the use of medical marijuana is limited to debilitating medical conditions. The clause allowing physicians to prescribe medical marijuana for any other condition should be read in the context of the rest of the amendment. It gives doctors the leeway to prescribe marijuana for debilitating conditions that are not enumerated or have yet to be discovered.

To illustrate the limited scope of the amendment, John Mills, the attorney representing the sponsors of the amendment, stated "the doctor must assess in his professional judgment that the benefit outweighs the risk... The list is a starting point... The sponsors were focused on two things: the patient and how to best make the determination for the patient... a list alone would not be adequate." The intent of the amendment is not to have open-ended use of marijuana.

The Florida Supreme Court has until April 1, 2014 to approve the ballot language. Even if the Court approves the ballot language, United for Care has to gather 683,000 signatures by February 1, 2014.

A prominent Florida attorney who is financially backing the amendment says this is not a partisan issue. Both voters who are inclined to vote Democrat in the upcoming election, and voters who are inclined to vote Republican in the upcoming election will vote for medical marijuana. He does seem to think, however, that opposing medical marijuana may hurt politicians, as 82% of Florida voters support it.

A video of the oral arguments can be found at http://wfsu.org/gavel2gavel/viewcase.php?eid=2114.

Jeffrey Feiler is a well-known Miami Criminal Lawyer who has been successfully defending the rights of clients for over 30 years with a reputation for getting impressive results.

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