Joe Redner talks medical marijuana at Tampa's Oxford Exchange

The Tampa magnate and cancer patient is fighting for the right to grow his own.

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click to enlarge Joe Redner speaks at Tampa's Oxford Exchange on Friday, May 11. - Kimberly DeFalco
Kimberly DeFalco
Joe Redner speaks at Tampa's Oxford Exchange on Friday, May 11.

He came to talk about weed.

At Tampa's Oxford Exchange Friday morning, the weekly social collective Cafe con Tampa's crowd of mostly grey business attire and graying ponytails came to hear him talk about it.

Joe Redner — Tampa icon, occasional political candidate and owner of the legendary Mons Venus strip club — is an unfiltered defender of justice as he views it. Now, Redner is fighting for his health and the health of others. 

Specifically, he's fighting for the right to harvest his marijuana stash from his own back yard.

Redner, a vegan, has stage 4 lung cancer. It's in remission, and he wants to keep it that way. His state-certified physician who recommended weed-for-life for the 77-year-old, does too.

"My doctor wrote a recommendation for 30 plants," Redner said. "But that's not enough."

It's also not legal.

Redner has challenged the state's interpretation of Amendment 2, the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which more than 70 percent of Floridians voted for in 2016. The amendment is designed to alleviate those suffering from conditions like cancer and PTSD. According to the state's reading of the amendment, you can't smoke weed in Florida but you can eat it, vape it, spray it or swallow it in a pill.

Currently, Redner vapes and uses oils. But he wants to juice it, and to grow it, too — you know, keeping it local.

The Florida Department of Health doesn't agree, but that's the basis for Redner's fight — juicing his edible should be legal according to the amendment, and why not grow his own?

According to their guidelines, the state Department of Health has said Floridians are barred under state law from growing cannabis for personal use.

Redner is one of more than 95,000 registered medical marijuana patients in Florida. And he fought. And won — sort of. In April, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled that Redner can grow his own marijuana for medical purposes, a decision that he hopes could help others. The stuff can get pricey, after all.

"Under Florida law, Plantiff Redner is entitled to possess, grow and use marijuana for juicing, solely for the purpose of his emulsifying the biomass he needs for the juicing protocol recommended by his physician," Gievers said.

The Florida Department of Health immediately fired off an appeal immediately and was granted an automatic stay to that order. Redner's attorney, Luke Lirot, worked on a motion to lift the stay. On May 1, however, an appeals court temporarily blocked Redner again, and the stay will remain as Gievers' appeal is reconsidered by the court.

Redner is hoping to have the process expedited.

Adam Elend, one of Redner's two partners in Florigrown, a medicinal marijuana dispensary, also filed a complaint December 14, 2017 in Leon County on behalf of Florigrown against the Department of Health, its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, state Surgeon General Celeste Philip and Gov. Rick Scott. Elend says the state's licensing guidelines are unjust and designed to favor a limited group of companies. Just thirteen companies in Florida have been issued licenses; Florigrown, LLC, is not one of them.

"The legislature is stifling competition — creating monopolies," Redner said. "It gets expensive and a lot of people's problems would be alleviated if they could grow marijuana in their own yards."

Redner spoke of his years of drug and alcohol abuse and said that weed helped him overcome that.

"Anytime I felt like having a drink, I would smoke a little marijuana," Redner said. "You don't hear of people getting into accidents like with alcohol."

Since his cancer diagnosis in 2011, cannabis has helped him relax, sleep better and calm his restless legs. And given the four percent, five-year survival rate for his particular illness, he believes it has kept him alive.

"Cannabis makes chemo tolerable," he said.

In true Redner style, the man who stood before a group of 60-plus people and stated that he loves everybody said he will fight to the end.

He's ready to harvest his own biomass. He's ready to juice.

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