Medical marijuana melodrama continues: Two roads to non-euphoric and euphoric relief

From the News Service of Florida:

Voters will get another chance to decide whether to allow medical marijuana in Florida after backers of a proposed constitutional amendment finished submitting enough valid petition signature to get on the November ballot. Prominent Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who has pushed the medical marijuana citizen initiative, sent an email to supporters Wednesday announcing that the petition drive was successful.

According to the Florida Division of Elections website, supporters of the proposal have turned in 692,981 valid signatures, almost 10,000 more than needed to get on the ballot.

“This effort cost millions of dollars — but it needed to happen. … Medical marijuana is coming to Florida,” Morgan wrote in his email.

A similar amendment was on the 2014 ballot but fell short of getting support from the 60 percent of Florida voters needed to approve constitutional amendments. The proposal was rewritten to address arguments by opponents that the 2014 measure was too broadly drawn and could allow easy access to the drugs.

One of the applicants selected by health officials to be among the state’s first medical-marijuana dispensing organizations filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Tallahassee, asking a Leon County circuit judge to allow the process to move forward while administrative challenges are pending.

Chestnut Hill Tree Farm was selected as the dispensing organization for Northeast Florida under a 2014 law that allows limited types of cannabis that do not get users high. Chestnut Hill filed the lawsuit after an administrative law judge last week indicated that licenses issued by the Florida Department of Health aren’t final until the administrative challenges — set for hearings through July — are resolved.

In the 12-page complaint filed Wednesday, Chestnut Hill’s lawyer John Lockwood wrote that the lawsuit was filed “to resolve doubt and uncertainty as to the obligations” of the Department of Health and the nursery.

Despite the challenges, the approved dispensing organizations “must continue to expend time, effort, and significant expense to ensure compliance with the very short statutory and regulatory deadlines,” Lockwood wrote.

The complaint asks a judge to decide that Chestnut Hill’s license is final, and that the nursery can move forward with the process of growing low-THC marijuana. The court needs to decide on the matter because Chestnut Hill “has spent, is spending and will continue to expend considerable resources to meet the statutory cultivation and dispensing deadlines,” Lockwood wrote.

Implementation of the 2014 law — which legalized low-THC marijuana for patients with chronic muscle spasms, epilepsy or cancer if their doctors order it — is more than a year behind schedule because of legal challenges. Florida voters also will have the chance in November to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize full-blown medical marijuana for a wide range of patients.