Advertisement
  1. Health

Judge: Joe Redner can legally grow his own marijuana

A judge in Tallahassee has ruled in favor of Joe Redner, the Tampa strip club owner who is challenging the state in court, saying he has the right to grow marijuana for medical purposes in his back yard. [Times (2007)]
Published Apr. 11, 2018

A court ruled Wednesday that Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner can grow his own marijuana for medical purposes, a decision that lawyers say could lead to a wave of similar cases.

The ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers applies only to Redner, 77. The Florida Department of Health responded quickly, filing an appeal.

The department had said Floridians are barred under state rules from growing cannabis for their personal use, including those who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients.

But Redner and other critics across the state say the health department continues to create barriers for more than 95,000 registered patients in Florida that could benefit from marijuana. Redner is a stage 4 lung cancer survivor and a registered medical marijuana patient.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Could Tampa's own Joe Redner shake up the medical marijuana industry?

"Under Florida law, Plantiff Redner is entitled to possess, grow and use marijuana for juicing, soley for the purpose of his emulsifying the biomass he needs for the juicing protocol recommended by his physician," Gievers said in her ruling. The word "solely" is bolded and underlined for emphasis in the document.

"The court also finds … that the Florida Department of Health has been, and continues to be non-compliant with the Florida constitutional requirements," the judge added, referring to the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2016 that made medical marijuana legal.

Redner's attorney, Luke Lirot of Clearwater, said the judge was right to "castigate the health department for being a barrier to medicine."

While the ruling affects only Redner, Lirot says his case "does provide a usable approach for other people whose doctors will certify that this is of value."

In the meantime, the state's appeal will block Redner from growing his own marijuana right away. Lirot said his first order of business will be to try to lift the stay that prevents Redner from growing and juicing marijuana during the appeals process, which likely won't begin until late this year or early next year.

"The appellate process takes a long time, and in this case, it's going to affect Redner's life exclusively," said Jay Wolfson, a professor at Stetson University College of Law and the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida. "Because this issue is big enough, no matter who loses in appeals, the case will go on the state supreme court after this. You can bet on that."

In January, Gievers 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 she described Redner's plea in the case as "constitutional in nature," which allowed it to move forward.

In her ruling, Gievers says the health department "has still not complied with the Constitution," and until it stops "violating its constitutional duty and mandated presumptive regulation, the evidence clearly demonstrates that Redner is entitled to follow the recommendations of his certified physician under Florida law."

"The Legislature failed to act and that has a lot of consequences. This case is one of them," said Leslie Sammis, a Tampa-based defense attorney who is also a member of the The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws legal committee. "I think that the state and the health department should focus their energy on coming into compliance with this court order instead of stalling until it's forced upon them by the courts."

During a short, non-jury trial in March, attorneys representing the health department warned that Redner's case could open the door to more lawsuits over the constitutional amendment's language. Several lawsuits already have been filed against the department, but none other than Redner's has specifically challenged the state agency's interpretation of the amendment's language.

"It is my understanding that the health department is facing many pending lawsuits," Wolfson said. "It's a legal quagmire."

Redner says this means other patients should be able to challenge to possess their own plants, too.

"With this order, (patients) can go to their doctor now, and as long as they have a good enough reason to need to possess a plant, be it because they can't afford the medicine at the dispensaries, as long as they have a recommendation anyone should be allowed to grow," Redner said. "The cat is out of the bag. There's no way to stop this now."

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

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Dr. Paul McRae was the first black chief of staff at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Dr. McRae died on September 13, 2019. He was photographed here in the Tampa Bay Times photo studio for the 2008 Dr. Carter G Woodson Museum's "Legends Honorees" gala. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Times
    ‘His extraordinary example paved the way for so many others.’
  2. Michael Jenkins spent seven days at North Tampa Behavioral Health last July. Since then, he says his three children have been afraid he’ll leave and not come home. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times
    The patients have no choice, and the hospital is making millions.
  3. Samantha Perez takes a call for someone in need of counseling at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay earlier this year. The center handles calls dealing with suicide, sexual assault, homelessness and other traumatic situations. They also do outreach and counseling, and operate Transcare, an ambulance service. JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Florida’s mental health care system saves lives.
  4. The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times] JOSH FIALLO | TIMES  |  JOSH FIALLO | Times
    Slightly more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated this year — a huge jump from the 49,324 people vaccinated in all of 2018.
  5. FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2014, file photo, a patron exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at a store in New York. Under the Trump administration, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb kicked off his tenure in 2017 with the goal of making cigarettes less addictive by drastically cutting nicotine levels. He also rebooted the agency’s effort to ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes. But those efforts have been largely eclipsed by the need to respond to an unexpected explosion in e-cigarette use by teens. AP
    Hundreds of people nationwide have come down with lung illness related to vaping.
  6. This May 2018, photo provided by Joseph Jenkins shows his son, Jay, in the emergency room of the Lexington Medical Center in Lexington, S.C. Jay Jenkins suffered acute respiratory failure and drifted into a coma, according to his medical records, after he says he vaped a product labeled as a smokable form of the cannabis extract CBD. Lab testing commissioned as part of an Associated Press investigation into CBD vapes showed the cartridge that Jenkins says he puffed contained a synthetic marijuana compound blamed for at least 11 deaths in Europe. JOSEPH JENKINS  |  AP
    The vapor that Jenkins inhaled didn’t relax him. After two puffs, he ended up in a coma.
  7. H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute is the centerpiece of Project Arthur, an 800-acre corporate park that could include up 24 million square feet of office and industrial space on nearly 7,000 acres of what is now ranch land, but targeted for development in central Pasco. Times
    The H. Lee Moffitt facility is the centerpiece of an economic development effort in a proposed 800-acre corporate park.
  8. Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, posted this photo and open letter to Judge Thomas Palermo to her Instagram account on September 10, the day after she lost custody of her 4-year-old son Noah McAdams. The boy's parents wanted to treat his leukemia with natural health care remedies instead of chemotherapy. [Instagram] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Instagram
    The couple refused chemotherapy for their son, instead seeking alternative treatments including dietary plans, alkaline water and THC and CBD oil treatments
  9. Sharon Hayes, the new chief executive officer at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, says she will draw on her roots in nursing as she engineers a turnaround for the hospital. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    The city’s largest hospital has suffered setbacks under a corporate owner, but a new leader says it’s time for an infusion of “love and attention.”
  10. An architect's rendering shows part of a planned research center and hospital on N McKinley Drive in Tampa for the Moffitt Cancer Center. During the 2020 legislative session in Tallahassee, the center will seek an increased share of Florida's cigarette tax to finance the McKinley Drive project and other improvements. Moffitt officials said Thursday that the increase initially would finance $205 million, to be paired with $332 million they have already allocated for the project. Moffitt Cancer Center
    Florida lawmakers are the key to unlocking the money, which would pay for more hospital beds and research space.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement