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Joe Redner wins an early round in his legal fight to grow his own marijuana

In lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health, Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner says he has a right to own marijuana plants for medicinal uses. Redner, 77, is a lung cancer patient. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Jan. 24, 2018

Joe Redner, Tampa's outspoken strip club entrepreneur and a lung cancer patient, will go to trial to challenge the state's ban on allowing Florida residents to grow their own marijuana plants.

A state circuit court judge on Wednesday denied a motion by the Florida Department of Health to dismiss Redner's case. The judge also denied Redner's motion for an emergency temporary injunction, which would have allowed him to grow marijuana plants during the court process, but described Redner's plea in the case as "constitutional in nature," which will allow for it to move forward.

"The greater weight of the credible evidence supports some of the factors inherent in the proper granting of the temporary injunction sought, specifically the constitutionally recognized right of the plaintiff, as a qualifying patient to possess growing plants," reads the order from Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers.

Redner described the order as a "step in the right direction" in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Tampa's Joe Redner wants to grow his own cannabis plants, says suit

"I think that patients in Florida should be able to grow their own without fear of being arrested," said Redner, who owns the Mons Venus strip club in Tampa.

He is a registered medical marijuana patient in Florida and uses cannabis products to treat conditions related to his stage-four lung cancer.

"I have a secured back yard that's locked with a six-foot block fence where I plan to grow," he said. "But I have opioids in my house that aren't under lock and key. I don't understand why they're concerned that someone is going to steal my pot but not my opioids."

Redner, 77, filed the lawsuit last summer, less than two weeks after lawmakers put in place new laws governing the growing, manufacturing and selling of medical marijuana. It claims the state is not following the will of the public, which voted overwhelmingly in 2016 for a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

Under state health department rules, Floridians are barred from growing cannabis for their personal use, including those who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients. Redner's lawsuit is challenging those rules based on how the state Constitution, as amended by voters, defines marijuana. The suit claims that the definition includes "all parts of the plant."

"I think this is a huge step forward for patients in need of this critical medicine," Luke Lirot, the attorney who argued the case Dec. 20, said in a statement.

"It helps sweep away a lot of inaccurate myths and unjustified fear exhibited by those who, regardless of the overwhelming evidence, still oppose anyone having access to medical cannabis," he said. "The best part of the decision is that the court truly embraced what we all know was the will of a vast majority of Florida's voters."

Another Redner attorney, Amanda Carter, said the case was not a complicated one.

"All we are asking the court to do here is follow the Florida Constitution and declare that sick people have a right to grow cannabis for medical purposes," she said in a statement. "I am relieved that the judge understood that."

A Florida Department of Health spokeswoman said in an email "the department is reviewing the order and evaluating options for the best path forward."

The judge ordered that the department answer the complaint within two weeks, and that all parties provide notice that the case is ready for trial within 10 days after that.

"They've set an aggressive schedule," Redner said. "My guess is I'll be able to grow it in three months."

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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