ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday that Florida protesters marched in Orlando to demand the state's governor allow medical marijuana patients to grow marijuana. They also want Gov. Rick Scott to drop marijuana appeals preventing a judge's ruling allowing smokable marijuana.
Seventy-two percent of Florida voters legalized the drug in 2016, but the Florida State Legislature restricted the law to allow edibles only and prohibited smokable marijuana. The move won the governor, nicknamed Slick Rick.
After smokable marijuana was first banned by the Legislature, John Morgan, an attorney for a patient suffering from ALS and another terminally ill client, sued the state.
Morgan persuaded the judge that smokable marijuana is a necessity for certain patients. Morgan also argued that banning smokable marijuana violated the constitution.
Leon County circuit court Judge Karen Gievers agreed and ruled that it was irrelevant if smokable marijuana helped people with debilitating illnesses or not because the voters had already decided the issue.
"Floridians have already given the rights of qualifying patients constitutional protection,” she stated in the ruling.
Accused of playing politics, Gov. Scott placed a stay on the ruling the same day, to which the judge lifted in June and again ruled that a ban on smokable marijuana was unconstitutional. Protesters also want the governor to drop the appeal against the ruling in the case of cancer patient Joe Redner, who grows his own marijuana for medicine.
Slick Rick Ain't Doing the Trick with Smokable Marijuana
Spokeswoman for Gov. Scott, Mara Gambineri defended the pot appeals by saying that patients do have access to medical marijuana.
"There is even a home delivery option," she added. Gambineri went on to say that the law does not allow smokable marijuana and accused the protesters of being "disingenuous" for suggesting otherwise.
Morgan took to Twitter to shame the governor.
"#SlickRick please follow the law & the will of 72% of the people. Everyday you waste taxpayers’ money w/ this frivolous appeal sick people, veterans, cops, firefighters & cancer patients suffer! Where is your compassion man?"
Protesters included the veterans' group Buds for Vets. Marine Corps veteran Brett Puffenbarger is a spokesman for the group and discussed how important marijuana was for veterans suffering from PTSD.
Puffenbarger said that many veterans are afraid to express their pain and fear of being in public, adding that "cannabis is an answer to a lot of that." At least 22 veterans commit suicide daily, and many veterans say that marijuana has saved their lives.
He went on to say that the governor has proven that he doesn't want vets to have their medication. “I shouldn’t be a criminal; I’m a veteran! I did my time, I did something, I shouldn’t be a criminal if I want to go smoke a joint at the end of a hard day," said Puffenbarger.
Other veterans' groups such as the American Legion also support medical marijuana for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and found that 83 percent of veterans say that medical marijuana should be legal. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 20 percent of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans will suffer from PTSD, and 83 percent of veterans said that they wanted the option of using medical marijuana.
Florida State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) and democratic candidate for the House Anna Eskamani spoke at the event. Both politicians expressed the importance of medical marijuana with Smith concluding that the issue boiled down to morals.
"It's about right and wrong," said Smith. Protesters also marched in West Palm Beach and Tallahassee protesting the pot appeals.