Florida Appeals Court Denies Cancer-Stricken Club Owner His Pot

TAMPA, Fla.—Joe Redner, owner of the famous Mons Venus adult cabaret here, has had a long reputation as a campaigner for adult entertainers' rights. For example, back in the late '90s, Redner was one of the most vocal opponents of a Tampa City Council's move to enact a "set-back" for strippers which would force them to remain at least six feet from customers, thus preventing any lucrative lap-dancing from taking place, even after Redner brought hundreds of dancers to the council meeting to protest the ban. Redner continued to oppose increased club regulation through the early 2000s—but he was hardly averse to injecting a little humor into legal proceedings. That would include the time that Tampa decided to build a streetcar line between downtown and the historic Ybor City area to the east, and offered naming rights to the transit stops to the 11 highest bidders. Guess what? Redner was one of these high bidders, but the council didn't quite see the free speech implications of Redner wanting to name his stop after his club.

"The fact that the term 'mons venus' is an anatomical reference that some people find offensive just to say would be essentially the equivalent of naming one of the stations the 'Turgid Erect Member Station,'" said Ed Crawford, a spokesman for HARTline, the historic area rapid transit system charged with building the streetcar project.

But that was about 15 years ago, and Redner isn't doing so well these days: He's got stage 4 cancer in two major organs, and although he is qualified to buy pot from a dispensary under the state's recently enacted medical marijuana law, the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use has denied Redner the right to grow pot in his own home.

So of course, Redner filed a lawsuit in 2017 to gain his right to grow.

According to an article on the Courthouse News website, Redner's argued that "with a compromised immune system, he should be able to control the substances that go into his body," and since the ability of anyone to legally use cannabis is fairly new in some states, it's legitimate to suspect (or fear) that the pot one can buy at a dispensary may have any number of unknown substances (like weed and bug killers) riding along with the THC.

But sadly, after 18 months in the courts, and a ruling from Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers in 2018 that the state could not block Redner from growing medical marijuana to treat his prostate and lung cancer, Courthouse News reports that just last Thursday, "a three-judge panel of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reversed Gievers, finding in an 8-page per curiam order that the amendment [legalizing medical pot] grants only limited authority to qualified patients to use medical marijuana."

"There is no language contained in the ballot summary that would have allowed the voters to surmise that the passing of this amendment would permit qualified patients to cultivate and process their own medical marijuana," the panel held, adding that if the amendment "intended for qualified patients to be able to cultivate or process medical marijuana, that language would have been included in the definition of medical use; it was not."

While it's possible to appeal the panel's ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, there's no word so far from the Redner camp as to what he intends to do in light of this ruling.