MEDICAL MARIJUANA: FL Supreme Court Lets Decision Stand
Florida's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that defendants for possession of marijuana might still use the "medical necessity" defense. The case involved a retiree who was convicted of possession of marijuana in 1995 after smoking it to keep his "glaucoma at bay." George Sowell tried to argue in court that he needed the substance to control the pain, but the trial judge "refused to allow the defense." On appeal, the First District Court of Appeal overturned the conviction, ruling that Sowell's defense was valid (Clark, Miami Herald, 6/4). State Attorney General Bob Butterworth (D) asked the state Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court's decision. The court heard arguments in early April, but last week "unanimously agreed that the issue deals with 'an extremely narrow principle of law' and therefore doesn't belong in the high court" (Hallifax, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 6/4). James Rogers, bureau chief of criminal appeals for Butterworth's office, said, "He can go back to the trial court and try to prove it was a valid medical necessity." Keith Stroup, executive director of NORML, a national group that supports legalizing marijuana, said, "This decision is important to thousands of seriously ill people in Florida." But Rogers said the Legislature "will try to close the loophole and outlaw the use of the common-law defense." He said, "We assume the Legislature will want to make it clear they don't want medical necessity as a defense." The Herald notes that Gov. Jeb Bush (R) would likely endorse such a position by the Legislature. James McDonough, director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, said, "It's not proven yet it's safe or effective. Until we've had more medical research, I'm not prepared to view its use as medical at all" (6/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.