Court hears arguments on growing medical pot

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An appeals court Tuesday appeared skeptical of arguments that a Tampa businessman should be able to grow his own medical marijuana under a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized marijuana for patients.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal considered an appeal of a ruling last year by Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers that said businessman Joe Redner should be able to grow marijuana as he seeks to prevent a relapse of lung cancer.

The Florida Department of Health, which oversees medical marijuana, went to the appeals court to challenge Gievers’ ruling.

During Tuesday’s arguments, appeals-court Judge Scott Makar pointed to parts of the 2016 constitutional amendment that spelled out details of “medical marijuana treatment centers,” which are businesses licensed to cultivate, process and sell marijuana.

In questioning Luke Lirot, an attorney for Redner, Makar said he did not see wording in the amendment that gives the same authority to patients who want to grow their own marijuana.

“The amendment did not say that the qualifying patients can do those things,” Makar said.

Also, Judge T. Kent Wetherell asked about whether the Department of Health would have authority to take regulatory steps such as making sure homegrown marijuana is secure -- duties that it has with medical marijuana treatment centers.

But Lirot said a close reading of the amendment allows patients to have marijuana plants.

“A qualifying patient can possess a growing plant,” he said. The appeals court typically takes weeks or months to issue rulings in such cases.