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Years after Joe Redner’s fight, voters could decide on growing marijuana at home

Armed with buy-in from businesses, Tampa resident Moriah Barnhart will soon put her ballot petition to allow home grow in front of medical marijuana patients.

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By Shauna Muckle

Moriah Barnhart is exhausted.

But the Tampa mom keeps going. She’s caring for her 12-year-old daughter, Dahlia, who uses a specific strain of cannabis — without psychoactive properties — to treat a rare and debilitating form of brain cancer. Barnhart wants to grow that strain of cannabis at home rather than rely on dispensaries. She’s not the only one, she said.

Eighteen states allow growing marijuana at home, 16 of which also allow recreational use. Florida isn’t one of them. So she’s leading the charge to change the law.

Barnhart’s fight may call to mind the saga of Joe Redner, the strip club king of Tampa who tried and failed to win a personal right to grow marijuana at home to treat his stage four lung cancer. Friends of Redner maintain that the state constitution already allows patients to grow their own cannabis. A Florida appeals court dismissed that logic.

Barnhart said Redner’s court case only went so far.

Had he won the case, “it would be for him and him only,” she said. But, she added, Redner educated the public on home grow.

Barnhart is spearheading a petition that could allow Florida voters to decide next year whether all qualifying medical patients can grow their own cannabis at home.

About 200 dispensaries around the state have agreed to display copies of that petition, possibly starting this month, Barnhart said. Some of those dispensaries are owned by two top medical marijuana companies in Florida, Trulieve and Surterra, which have publicly endorsed the idea.

But the major dispensaries have yet to support Barnhart’s campaign with big-dollar donations.

Barnhart said her daughter is the prototype of a medical patient looking to grow marijuana at home: someone who uses a specific strain under the advice of a doctor. Parents with sick kids often feel like they don’t have any option but to break the law and grow at home, she said.

Barnhart said she’s motivated to help others besides Dahlia.

“I could have taken my daughter out-of-state and gotten all the product we needed,” she said. “But it just seemed outrageously unfair that there would be so many people without the friends and connections we have, who couldn’t have that thing.”

In 2020, Barnhart helped launch the cannabis advocacy group Women’s Initiative for a Safe and Equitable Florida. Two years later, she registered a political action committee, Wise and Free Florida, dedicated to getting home grow on the 2024 ballot.

How likely is it that this will pass?

Barnhart has chronicled the steps to get a grassroots initiative on the ballot on her Facebook page. In recent years, Barnhart, other moms and nonprofits have spent over $100,000 to promote home grow at the state level. The political campaign, Wise and Free Florida, has disclosed only about $4,000 in contributions this year.


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