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House Appeals Order In Medical Marijuana Dispute

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Saying the Legislature lacks the authority to “marginalize the responsibilities of the executive branch,” a Tallahassee judge Thursday issued an order shooting down the Florida House’s attempt to intervene in a medical-marijuana lawsuit. 

The House immediately responded by giving notice that it was appealing the order to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson issued the written order after saying from the bench earlier this month that he was rejecting the House’s request to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Tampa-based firm Florigrown.

The firm is challenging a state law that was passed last year to carry out a voter-approved 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Dodson ruled in October that the 2017 law --- which, among other things, capped the number of medical marijuana licenses the Florida Department of Health can approve --- was unconstitutional and ordered the state to begin registering Florigrown and other medical-marijuana firms to do business in the state.

The health department appealed Dodson’s ruling. The House also sought to intervene, arguing that the law was carefully crafted to carry out the constitutional amendment and to comply with federal guidance about medical-marijuana issues.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, though it has been legalized for medicinal or recreational uses in more than three-dozen states, including Florida.

But Dodson found that no state laws would comply with the federal law.

“There is not a single state medical marijuana program in any of the states that does not run completely afoul of federal drug policy and federal law,” Dodson wrote in Thursday’s five-page order. “It is simply not possible under any circumstances to design a law or program that would not run afoul of federal drug policy …”

Dodson found that the House is not a proper defendant in the case, ruling that “because even the Legislature’s policymaking must comport with the Constitution, the House does not have a direct and immediate interest” in the litigation.

The degree to which the House crafted the law to comply with the federal guidance “is wholly irrelevant to the issue of the statute’s ultimate constitutionality,” Dodson wrote.