Fort Lauderdale man says he'll keep smoking marijuana, legal or not

State set to vote on medical marijuana bill by end of week

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Cancer survivor Bruce Vanaman said a quick puff of marijuana in the morning is a godsend.

He said it relieves the gut-churning pain and nausea that routinely hits him since surgeons removed five feet of his intestine to treat his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"In the mornings is the worst for me," Vanaman said. "The first thing I do is I'll have a quick smoke. Then that'll let me have something to eat."

But those puffs could land him in jail.

The Florida Legislature is debating how to regulate the use of medical marijuana, but patients complain that proposed restrictions on use are unconstitutional.

Vanaman, who is now in remission, lives in Fort Lauderdale, and even though cannabis has been recommended by several of his doctors and he has a medical need card from Colorado, it's still illegal in Florida and will almost surely remain so even after the legislature passes a medicinal marijuana bill this week.

Both the Senate and House version of the bill outlaw smoking as a treatment, meaning the actual plant will continue to be illegal for patients.

Attorney Michael Minardi said the smoking ban is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

"The hypocrisy is just disgusting," he said.

Minardi believes it's a constitutional right in the state of Florida to smoke cannabis, and he's ready to go to court for it.

"They're taking the intent of the amendment and they are spitting on us," Minardi said.

Both bills would allow so-called vaping of cannabis oil. A final version of the bill is expected to be passed by the end of the week.

But Vanaman said that doesn't have the desired effect in his case and for several other patients.

This includes Cathy Jordan, one of the state's longest-living ALS patients, who said smoking saved her life.  

"We have plenty of evidence that it does work," Vanaman said.  

Vanaman said until the state allows smoking, he will remain an outlaw.  

"That decision between a doctor and a patient is sacred," Vanaman said. "It is never between the state administrators and a patient, or the politicians."  

Minardi said another sure lawsuit will come from business owners who complain that Florida's restrictions on cannabis licenses are also unlawful and lead to a cartel-like system with little competition and prohibitively high prices.

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