Jesse Teplicki, who was arrested in 2013 for growing marijuana, was found not guilty by a jury on Monday. After just 30 minutes of deliberating, the jury delivered its verdict, making Florida history. Teplicki says he uses pot to treat his severe anorexia, and thus became the first man in the state's history to successfully use as a defense the concept that pot was medically necessary.
"This was a groundbreaking case, and we're very pleased that the jury acquitted Mr. Teplicki on all charges," said attorney Michael Minardi. "The evidence showed he was using cannabis to help him manage a serious and painful medical condition which he has endured for years."
Teplicki, 50, who says he's smoked marijuana for medical reasons for the past 33 years, has said that his anorexia is so severe, he has no appetite at all. The marijuana, he says, stimulates his appetite and reduces nausea. In 2013, going off an anonymous tip, Broward Sheriff's Office deputies found a grow house in his home, where he was growing 46 marijuana plants.
Following his arrest and charge, prosecutors gave Teplicki a probationary offer, but he turned it down.
"Jesse didn't want to take the prosecution's offer because he's a family man, not a criminal," Minardi told New Times. "He leads a good life and is a good family man. The marijuana is for medical reasons."
Teplicki says that to treat the disorder as a child, he was given anabolic steroids, which worked for some time. But continued use of the steroids caused liver scarring and cysts, as well as other serious side effects. Teplicki then began using cannabis as a form of treatment instead, allowing him to live a pain-free, normal life. When all medicines either failed or made things worse, marijuana has helped and healed.
For the defense, Minardi and partner Kelley Kronenberg were able to use several hours of testimony from Dr. Denis Petro, a board-certified neurologist who has conducted clinical trials, testified, and written extensively about the medical benefits of marijuana.
"We obviously believe Jesse wouldn't be alive today if not for marijuana," Minardi says.
The verdict comes just as the Florida Legislature is about to take up the legality of medical marijuana with a Senate bill filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes. If passed, the bill would authorize doctors to use medicinal marijuana to treat patients afflicted with specific illnesses, such as cancer, epilepsy, AIDS, ALS, Crohn's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
According to the proposed bill, there would be a license for cultivation and processing medical marijuana and another for selling it. The bill would also allow county commissioners throughout the state to decide where medical marijuana could be sold.
The bill is being introduced on the tail of United for Care launching another petition drive to get medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot.
In a statement Monday night, United for Care's Ben Pollara called Teplicki's not-guilty verdict a game changer for the start of the legislative session.
"Legislative leaders in Tallahassee now have to look at medical marijuana through the lens of this precedent established by a Florida jury, in addition to the 58 percent of Floridians who voted for medical marijuana at the polls last November," Pollara said. "The medical use of marijuana is no longer solely a political issue with wide popular support; it is legal precedent in Florida courts. This ruling should be a message to the Legislature that they should act this session on establishing a medical marijuana system in our state so that sick and suffering Floridians don't have to fight in court for the right to use the medicine recommended by their doctors, as Mr. Teplicki did today."
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.