A Jacksonville law firm has created a firestorm in the already heated debate about whether Floridians should allow doctors to order medical marijuana for sick patients.
Lawyer Ian Christensen and his colleague Christopher Ralph contend that current state law allows severely ill patients to grow and consume their own marijuana if they meet certain criteria and doctors say they need it.
Their company which goes by the name of (CTI), Cannabinoid Therapy Institute of Florida, Christensen asserts that for $800, he will give a patient an ID card and a doctors note from one of his own in-network doctors to keep a person from going to jail if they grow or consume marijuana.
The $800 fee includes $300 ‘Health Law Services’ which pays a doctor to determine whether a patient meets the medical necessity criteria. They assert that the rest of the money covers the cost of legal documents, legal services and the ID card, which is not associated with any government agency whatsoever.
To that, they’re also making claims on their website that clearly go against Florida law as seen below.
From CTI’s website FAQ section:
“Florida law allows a patient with a severe debilitating condition to lawfully cultivate cannabis themselves, authorize a caretaker do the same on their behalf or lawfully obtain the medicine from a licensed Physician.”
Critics accuse Health Law Services of misleading the public.
“This is almost like a cult. It’s like Reverend Moon or Jim Jones type stuff. You don’t even know where to begin. But I know this. It’s against the law now. And I know this — if you go and buy some marijuana for your mother with multiple sclerosis, you’re going to jail,” John Morgan of United For Care says.
The fatal flaw in ‘Health Law Services’ argument is the medical necessity defense requires an individual to get arrested first and then go to jail and be subject to the discretion of a county prosecutor to say they have a legal right to smoke marijuana.
Rep. Katie Edwards is a lawyer who played a key role in pushing through a measure, approved by the Legislature this spring and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, that legalized marijuana strains low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabidiol, or CBD, for certain patients.
“My concern is for sick patients who are duped into believing that merely filling out some paperwork and paying $800 will get them access to marijuana. I think it’s disingenuous to solicit clients with a patient ID card and other services that are simply not available without first being arrested and then going through the court system and then having the court address the medical-necessity defense,” Edwards, D-Plantation, said.
Christensen and Ralph are basing their position on a complex interpretation of state and federal law, a Department of Health rule concerning doctors and Florida Supreme Court instructions regarding the medical-necessity defense. They assert that, “based on Florida law, patients have an absolute right — not merely an affirmative defense — to grow their own pot and even purchase it from someone else. Law enforcement can’t punish patients for following doctors’ orders”, Ralph said.
Most other medical-marijuana law experts disagree.
“In my opinion, (Ralph) and his CTI organization are a fraud. That $800 won’t buy you the bail money to get out of jail when you get locked up by a cop who will laugh and scoff at it. It’s a scam,” said Norman Elliott Kent, from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.
But Ralph said his firm will soon drop its $400 portion of the fee, though to date the fee is still $800. He says they can’t keep up with the number of clients seeking help. But he insisted Health Law Services is trying to get law enforcement officials to sign off on the idea that medical marijuana is already legal so he and his partner won’t have to fight for the rights of sick patients to use pot.
“We’re not being paid to do this. There’s no revenue coming to us that benefits us by getting this information out. Nothing. In fact, we’re putting ourselves out of business,” he said.
Of course, no business person would ever have a business where they intentionally presume to lose money. Although if they are indeed putting themselves out of business as Mr. Ralph states, marijuana patients everywhere would most certainly be much better off, by not being scammed out of $800, and not being put at risk of being imprisoned, all at the hands of an unscrupulous lawyer looking to cash in on desperately ill patients.
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