Former Florida Judge: 'I’ve Been Haunted For 30 Years' For Punishing Medical Marijuana Patients

For 30 years, former Judge Doug Bench enforced marijuana prohibition in Florida. Then a serious illness forced him to break that law in order to save his life.  

"I hated marijuana," Judge Bench confessed while discussing drug reform last year. "I hated the use of marijuana and the violation of the law."

That changed in 2015 when he was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - a life-threatening disease that Bench began illicitly treating with medical marijuana.

"I had no choice," Bench confessed. "If i wanted to live. I had to violate Florida law."

But what he regrets most is the time he spent putting "put 311 people in jail" for similar nonviolent cannabis offenses.

"I've been haunted for 30 years, wondering how many of those were using it for medical reasons," he said during the public hearing in 2017.

Now, Bench is trying to prevent others from having to break the law to get the medicine they need. He is advocating for an expansion of the Florida medical marijuana program to include conditions like COPD. Without that change, he says the state's strict marijuana regulations are essentially a death sentence for patients like him.

"If I had to medicate under Florida law, I'd be dead."


Citing supply shortages, Ontario announced Thursday that they would now be taking a “phased approach” to issuing cannabis retail licenses. Despite earlier claims that they would not be capping the number of licenses for retail pot shops, they announced Thursday that they would, in fact, be limiting the number of licenses dispensed in April to 25. The province says that the licenses will be issued though a lottery system overseen by a third party to “ensure equality and transparency.” This, of course, is following the Progressive Conservative’s stark change in cannabis policy for the province after defeating the Ontario Liberal government in 2018.