With Election Day three weeks away, the decision over whether medical marijuana will be legalized in Florida hangs in the balance. And today, in what is a first for Florida, a jury will be deciding if marijuana is medically necessary for someone.
The trial of Jesse Teplicki, which started Monday morning at the Broward County Courthouse, puts into the spotlight the issue of marijuana and its legality in the face of needing it for medicine.
Teplicki, 50, was arrested on 2013 after BSO deputies found a grow house in his home, where he was growing 46 marijuana plants. Now Teplicki, who says he needs marijuana to treat his severe anorexia, is facing a felony count of possession.
Teplicki's trial pits him as the first person in Florida history to have a jury decide if he's guilty of using marijuana as a medicine.
Teplicki, who claims to have 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.
Teplicki says that when he was a child, he was given anabolic steroids to treat the disorder, which worked for some time. But continued use of the steroids caused liver scarring and cysts, ending that form of treatment. Teplicki then began using cannabis as a form of treatment instead.
"Marijuana not only stimulates appetite but it reduces nausea," he told WSVN back in July. "It reduces my stomach pains. It allows me to live. It allows me to be a productive member and support my wife, my children, and be a member of society. I've been on all sorts of medication. They don't work for me. We've tried, and this is the only source of relief that I have."
While Teplicki's trial is the first of its kind, it's not the first time a South Florida man has faced prison time over medical marijuana.
In 2011, Boynton Beach resident Jeffrey Kennedy began growing marijuana to treat severe back pains after an accident. Cops found 26 marijuana plants in Kennedy's home after he called them to investigate a break-in into his house.
Kennedy was arrested on charges of trafficking and of cultivating marijuana plants.
Prosecutors offered him a plea, but Kennedy turned them down, hiring attorney Michael Minardi to represent him instead. Minardi was ready to go to trial with a bevy of medical marijuana experts, brain surgeons, and medicinal cannabis users. Prosecutors dropped the case before it could go to trial.
Minardi is now representing Teplicki.