When states don’t move quickly enough to decriminalize marijuana, sometimes the citizens have to take matters into their own hands. That’s what happened last week in Florida when a jury acquitted a man for growing medically-necessary pot, even though it is still illegal in the state.
Last year, Florida declined to approve a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana. A 58 percent majority of voters cast their ballots in favor of the measure, but the state requires a 60 percent popular vote in order for new laws to pass.
Nevertheless, the jury accepted Jesse Teplicki’s argument that he needed marijuana to combat a lifelong eating disorder. Teplicki, who is 50, said that he has smoked for more than three decades to reduce nausea and stimulate his appetite, after more conventional medical interventions failed. He even disclosed to the court that he had lit up prior to his testimony, the Sun Sentinel reported.
“The thing is, orally you can’t just take a medication when you have my condition,” Teplicki said during his trial, “You vomit, so to take something orally like a pill, it doesn’t work for me anyway.”
Dr. Denis Petro, a neurologist who is an expert on medical marijuana, testified that Teplicki probably wouldn’t be alive today if not for the plant’s therapeutic benefits, as reported by the Broward/ Palm Beach New Times.
The defendant was arrested in 2013 after police received a tip that he was growing marijuana in his house. They found 46 plants, and he never tried to deny they were his. He also turned down a plea offer of probation from prosecutors. Had the jury found him guilty he faced up to five years in prison.
Instead, they voted to acquit after only 30 minutes of deliberation.
“I really felt here was somebody with a lot of issues, with a lot of suffering since he was nine years old,” juror Mark Munzer said to NBC Miami. “Everything was justified.”
The result of the trial could bode well for future medical marijuana prosecutions, even if the state continues to drag its feet on legalization.
“This is an historic decision in the state of Florida,” defense lawyer Michael C. Minardi said to the Sun Sentinel after the trial. “Hopefully prosecutors heed the decision and are less likely to prosecute this kind of case in the future.”
However, just because one jury decided in favor of marijuana doesn’t mean that others will see things the same way.
“This doesn’t mean that sick and suffering Floridians are now protected in any way from arrest and prosecution under the law,” pro-pot group United for Care said in a press release. “There is no such protection — people are still being arrested and this had to be won at court. The ability to use the medicine recommended by your doctor should not have to be defended in a court of law.”
The state legislature is currently considering a medical marijuana bill, and advocates are hoping to get together another ballot measure to put before the people for the 2016 elections.
Teplicki said he doesn’t plan to on waiting.
“I go home this evening,” he said after the trail, “I have a meal with my wife and smoke a fat one before it and that’s it.”