Medical Marijuana

Jurors in Florida Marijuana Case Accept Medical Necessity Defense

A man suffering from anorexia successfully argued that he needs cannabis to stay alive.

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Jacob Sullum

Last fall 58 percent of Florida voters supported a constitutional amendment that would have made it legal for patients to use marijuana as a medicine. That was two points shy of the supermajority needed to pass the measure. This week six jurors in Broward County nevertheless supported Jesse Teplicki's right to grow medical marijuana, which he uses to treat the anorexia from which he has suffered since he was a child. According to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, this is the first time in Florida's history that a jury has accepted a "medical necessity" defense in a marijuana case.

The jurors, who deliberated for less than an hour, accepted Teplicki's argument that marijuana had kept him alive by relieving his nausea and boosting his appetite. Under Florida law, he had to persuade them that he did not intentionally put himself in the situation that led him to break the law, that there was no legal alternative, and that the evil he sought to avoid was worse than the crime he committed. The parameters of that defense were laid out in a 1991 Florida appeals court ruling and applied again in a 1998 decision by the same court. In both cases the appeals court reversed a trial judge's rejection of a medical necessity defense against marijuana cultivation charges. But Teplicki's case is the first time such a defense has been successfully used in a Florida jury trial.

"This is an historic decision in the state of Florida," Teplicki's lawyer, Michael C. Minardi, told the Sun-Sentinel. "Hopefully prosecutors heed the decision and are less likely to prosecute this kind of case in the future." Teplicki, who faced up to five years in prison, wants to continue growing his medicine, but there is no guarantee that he won't be prosecuted again. Minardi is considering a lawsuit aimed at preventing that.  "We need to protect this right," he said.

The rules for the medical necessity defense vary from state to state. In 2008 I noted what appeared to be the first successful use of the defense in a Texas marijuana case. In 2001 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no medical necessity defense against federal marijuana charges.

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  1. Good for them. Fuck you, Gonzalez.

    -jcr

  2. First. Yipee.

  3. In 2001 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no medical necessity defense against federal marijuana charges.

    Of course they did. The state uber alles.

    “We’re going to try and throw you in a cage for smoking a plant that keeps you alive and hurting no one in the process.” Statist logic 101.

    1. “We’re going to try and throw you in a cage for smoking a plant that keeps you alive and hurting no one in the process.” Statist logic 101.

      I don’t think the state needs such a wordy defense.

      1. “Fuck you, that’s why” usually works just fine.

    2. They also conveniently ignored the lack of any constitutional authority to ban marijuana in the first place.

      -jcr

    3. It takes a village to torture people.

  4. All I can tell from the articles is that the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict. It’s not apparent that the jurors accepted his medical necessity defense or chose another reason to nullify the law in this instance.

    Regardless, as this was a finding of fact made by a jury and not a finding of law, this has close to zero precedent value.

    1. Nobody said it had value as a precedent. But it’s a reflection of changing attitudes. If a prosecutor can’t get any one of six jurors to agree to convict somebody on this bullshit charge, maybe next time they’ll tone it down a bit for fear of jeopardizing their precious conviction stats.

      (or maybe they’ll overcharge and force a plea. But I’d like to be optimistic for once.)

      1. I’d like to be optimistic for once

        You poor deluded bastard…

        1. Well, medical (and now recreational) cannabis is one issue where things seem to be moving more or less in the right direction. So a little optimism isn’t completely unwarranted.

      2. When will those POS Prosecutors figure out they are gonna lose?

        1. When the noose is tied around their necks.

    2. I suspect that the only basis for a not guilty verdict is straight nullification or medical necessity ( or both – medical necessity actually allows the defense to essentially ask for nullification).

  5. I have jury duty in a few weeks. And if I get picked for a trial where the defendant is accused of a victimless crime, I’ll vote to acquit and will hold out until everyone else agrees or there’s a hung jury. One time I (accidentally) tainted an entire room of potential jurors because of my ‘radical’ Libertarian philosophy (the guy was busted for a .08 BAC at a sobriety checkpoint). The judge dismissed all of them and that was a pretty sweet feeling. I suggest everyone here do something similar the next time they get jury duty.

    1. I’ve got jury duty near the end of the month. I’m torn between (a) keeping my mouth shut and simply insisting the prosecution evidence wasn’t good enough (silent nullification), (b) telling the other jurors (and the judge it it comes to that) why I won’t convict, and (c) saying it loud and proud during voir dire so that all the other prospects see a way to get out of jury duty, possibly educating themselves in the process.

      My problem is that I find it awfully hard to lie about such basic principles, and do not think I will ever be selected for any jury. I also don’t feel like risking contempt of court; I know judges don’t want the truth any more than prosecutors do.

      1. I’ve never had to lie to get on a jury before (I’ve been selected a few times) since they seldom ask me any pertinent questions during jury selection. It was only when I was about to be sworn in on the aforementioned DUI case that I was compelled to speak up. I told the judge I couldn’t convict someone for having an arbitrary (and very low) BAC, and that sobriety checkpoints were a violation of the Fourth Amendment. That was enough to get me dismissed along with every other potential juror in the courtroom. But next time I’ll be quiet and won’t express my opinion until I get into the jury room where my actions will have a greater impact.

        1. That’s where I have trouble lying. No matter what words I use, the tone of my voice will make it quite clear how contemptible their system is. I’ve had runins before, like a former employer who went into bankruptcy, yes, locked doors and no paychecks kind, then dragged us into court several months later, and the judge did not like my tone of voice when I said the truth.

          But I doubt I will be stupid enough to go to jail. Probably won’t even get a lecture. Just won’t get a chance to nullify some stupid law.

          1. Understood. We all need to adhere to our own principles. Good luck!

      2. I find it awfully hard to lie about such basic principles

        I find it fun. Fooling your helpless enemies? How much better does it get than that? I hung a jury in a federal narcotics case, and I’d do whatever I needed to do so again.

        1. There’s a big difference between lying and simply not expressing your views during voir dire. The latter is OK, the former I have a huge problem with. Our justice system (hate it or love it) depends on at least some people being honest (it would surprise you how many people actually do tell the truth in court, it’s more than you would think). This coming from a prosecutor who goes out of my way to avoid convicting people of drug crimes if I can do it and fulfill my ethical obligations.

  6. It’s good to see that any excuse will do-when will our rulers realize we want to legalize?

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