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Tampa Strip Club Owner Wins Right To Grow, Use Medical Marijuana

Joe Redner
Joe Redner Senate Campaign 2016
Joe Redner

Tampa strip club owner and cancer patient Joe Redner can use medical marijuana he grows on his own, a Leon County Circuit judge ruled Wednesday.

Redner sued the state Department of Health late last year, saying he needed to grow and juice his own marijuana to keep his Stage 4 lung cancer at bay.  He said a 2016 constitutional amendment approving medical marijuana in Florida guarantees his right to grow pot and use it.

In her ruling, Judge Karen Gievers said the state failed to produce any credible evidence why the 77-year-old Redner can't grow marijuana for medical purposes. She also said the state is not recognizing that state voters approved the use of medical marijuana.

“The actions of the Department of Health since Floridians’ adoption of the Medical Marijuana Amendment in November 2016 are not close to full compliance with the Department’s duties,” she said.

The state immediately appealed the ruling.

In a non-jury trial last month, Redner explained that he has a state medical marijuana user's card and a doctor's order to turn the pot into juice. He’s also a vegan, and according to the court records, he cannot use medical marijuana used in approved dispensaries.

Joe Redner's battle to use medical marijuana was used as part of his 2016 campaign for the Florida Senate.
Credit Joe Redner Campaign
Joe Redner Campaign
Joe Redner's battle to use medical marijuana was used as part of his 2016 campaign for the Florida Senate.

Redner's lawyer Luke Lirot said his argument to the court was that the constitutional amendment approving the use of medical marijuana does not give the state ability to prevent people from growing the plant. He said the Department of Health has created burdensome rules, rather than making it easier for card holders to access medical marijuana.

"The amendment is about 1,300 words, the statute is about  17,000 words. Basic math would tell you there's a lot in the statues and the departments rules that are outside of what was decided on by voters," Lirot said.

Gievers, who said the state is ignoring the rights of people who qualify for this treatment, made it clear that she was approving the use for Redner only, and only for medical reasons. He can juice 8 ounces of marijuana a day.

“Redner may not share the plants, any portion of them, or any juice therefrom with any other person, and he may only possess, grow and use the plants while his is involved in administering the medical treatment to himself in accordance with the recommendations of his physician, with no civil or criminal liability under Florida law,” she ruled.

The order does recognize that Redner still could face prosecution under federal law, which considers marijuana an illegal controlled substance.

Lirot said he believes Redner's case, if successful, could allow for other card holders to sue the state for the right to grow their own marijuana. But, he said, there are still many rules for who can have medical marijuana.

"It doesn't really open the flood gates," he said. "There's a lot of pre-requisites: "You still would have to be a qualified patient; You'd still have to get a recommendation."

Redner is best known for owning strip clubs in Tampa. But the Libertarian has spent decades suing local and county governments over constitutional issues.

Lirot said he believes the case will likely end up before the Florida Supreme Court.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF Public Media, where she oversees a team of reporters covering 13 counties on Florida’s west coast.
Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.
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