Two families are suing the state of Florida over medical marijuana. The lawsuit, which was just announced today, aims to force Florida to finally comply with cannabis legislation that became part of the state's Constitution in November 2016.
Last November, a strong majority of Floridans approved a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. In total, 71.3 percent of Florida voters supported the constitutional amendment to allow medicinal cannabis use, but the State Department of Health has failed to meet the requirements of the new law, according to the plaintiffs. That means millions of Floridans are unable to get the medicine they need — even though access to medical marijuana is supposed to be guaranteed under the state Constitution to treat cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease and other debilitating medical conditions.
One of the plaintiffs includes Bill's Nursery Inc., a plant nursery owned and operated by Steve Garrison Sr. — whose son Matthew died last January. Matthew's condition inspired his father as well as his brothers, Rusty and Donovan, to have Bill's Nursery focus solely to get a license to become a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center. MMTCs are state-authorized cultivators, processors and distributors of cannabis for medicinal use.
"It's personal for us — it hits home," Donovan said in a press release. “We cared about this issue before, but after Matthew’s death, it’s so gut wrenching because we want to help but are being held back.”
And so are many other entrepreneurs that are trying to help patients. State law required the Florida Department of Heath to issue ten additional MMTC licenses by October 3, 2017, but it failed to meet that deadline. The shortage of licensed producers and dispensers severely limits access to medicine that could save patients' lives, according to the plaintiffs, who say the current MMTCs are too few and too far apart to serve the state properly. On top of that, the small number of approved businesses limits the types of strains available to patients, which is a huge problem because some strains treat certain conditions better than others.
So the Garrison family is taking action to make sure other patients don't suffer due to the state's negligence.
The other plaintiff is Michael Bowen, who suffered a grand mal seizure on the floor of the Florida Senate last April. Bowen, who was diagnosed with severe epilepsy at age 13, says traditional pharmaceuticals don't work anymore, meaning he suffers from multiple and potentially lethal seizures every day.
“Every seizure I get causes brain damage and carries the additional threat of instant death through stroke or cardiac arrest," Bowen said in the same press release. "In cases like mine, medical marijuana is literally the only thing that can control my seizures and keep me alive. But the Florida Department of Health’s inexcusable foot-dragging is keeping patients like me from getting safe, reliable access to these lifesaving treatments.”
Hopefully the state will comply before their inaction costs lives.