JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The personal injury attorney turned spokesperson and advocate for medical marijuana filed a promised lawsuit against the State of Florida on Thursday for a “smokeless” cannabis bill that was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
John Morgan made promises to both the citizens of Florida, as well as legislators in Tallahassee, that he would sue the state for a revamped and trimmed up cannabis bill that hit the floor during a special legislative session in June.
Morgan says the two biggest flaws he saw with the bill that aimed to implement Amendment 2 were the limitations placed on doctors who want to treat patients with marijuana and the outright ban on all smoking forms of it.
“But for that, I would not be here,” Morgan told First Coast News in a phone call on Thursday.
“If they had left that alone, I wouldn’t be flying to Tallahassee today. But, I warned them and so I believe promises made are promises that need to be kept. This will be my final issue dealing with medical marijuana.”
The lawsuit Morgan filed Thursday in Leon County was on behalf of the Florida-based political action committee People United for Medical Marijuana, which Morgan currently chairs. The PAC led a major campaign in 2016 advocating for the passage of Amendment 2.
Ever since initial framework for the implementation of Amendment 2 was issued by the Florida Department of Health, Morgan and his former campaign manager Ben Pollara have been condemning the state for its passive response to an initiative that received an overwhelming response from Florida voters.
After a bill that would have implemented the amendment failed during the regular legislative session due to a difference of opinions on dispensary caps, Morgan called on Gov. Scott to appoint a special session to address the issue.
Florida Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Ray Rodrigues would inevitably reintroduce separate medical marijuana bills during a special session in June that was called by Gov. Scott over education and economic development issues. To some surprise, a marijuana bill was enrolled and later signed into law by the governor.
Morgan, outspoken as ever, was not hesitant to voice his opposition to the bill that yet again did not include the smoking of marijuana in its legislative language.
“The Florida legislature decided to get involved in the medical use and that is not allowed,” Morgan said. “We clearly stated in the amendment that medical marijuana was not allowed to be smoked in public places. Meaning, it was allowed to be smoked in private places.”
Morgan says he has spoken with a lot of patients who would benefit from the smoking of cannabis as opposed to other methods of consumption. Patients with ALS and epilepsy, according to Morgan, benefit more by smoking cannabis than vaporizing it, which is currently allowed under state law.
Morgan says he plans to add the names of those patients to the list of plaintiffs in the lawsuit at a later date.
Some of the defendants currently listed in the suit: Florida Secretary of Health Celeste Philip, Director of the Office of Compassionate Use Christian Bax, Florida Board of Medicine Chairman James Orr, Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine Chairman Anna Hayden.
"In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associate in 2012, marijuana smoking was shown to not impair lung function, based on the doses inhaled by the majority of users, as compared to non-smokers and tobacco smokers," the lawsuit states. "In fact, marijuana smoking was shown to increase lung capacity."
Shortly after Morgan's live announcement of the lawsuit in Tallahassee, the non-profit anti-marijuana legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) released a statement opposing his views on smoking.
"There's a reason why every single major medical association opposes the use of the raw, smoked form of marijuana as medicine," Founder of SAM and University of Florida Drug Policy Institute Director Kevin Sabet said in the release. "Smoke is not a reliable delivery system, it's impossible to measure dosage, and it contains hundreds of other chemical compounds that may do more harm than good."
In the press release, Sabet went on to encourage the Federal government to fund more research on the compounds found in marijuana -- which he acknowledged do provide relief -- but only after comparing Morgan to the likes of a "modern day snake oil salesman."
"This lawsuit is nothing more than a smokescreen designed to bypass the FDA and open the doors to a new for-profit, retail commercial marijuana industry in Florida," said Sabet.
Morgan, who has recently been seen rubbing elbows with political strategist Roger Stone, brushes off the rumors that his interest in Florida’s medical marijuana legislation is solely a political stump for a future run at governor.
However, Morgan said he is financially capable and willing to make a run for governor if the timing is right and if Floridians show enough interest. When asked about his relationship with the infamous political strategist, Morgan said Stone has vowed his support if he were to throw his hat in the ring.
For now though, he's just watching the political field and seeing how things play out.
“I think about it all the time and people come up to me all the time and you know, I know this, I know that there is nobody in Florida that would fight for the forgotten and the powerless like me,” said Morgan.
Morgan touts himself as a "capitalist with a capital 'C'" whose conservative values and skills in negotiating would help him transition party lines if he decided to step into the political spotlight more so than he already has. No doubt, his Blue Dog Democratic values and stature would catch the eye of those who have grown weary of Scott's brand of conservatism.
“There are big issues that I feel strongly about such as the decriminalization of marijuana, potentially even the legalization of marijuana, fighting for public school teachers, restoring felons’ rights and most importantly a fair wage for people who work their asses off.”