Miami, FL- A Florida man facing up to five years in prison for manufacturing cannabis was found not guilty on Monday by a Broward County jury. The jury took less than an hour to deliver their verdict. Jesse Teplicki, 50, is reported to be the first person in Florida to successfully argue a medical need for cannabis during a jury trial.
Teplicki was charged with the manufacture of cannabis after deputies followed an anonymous tip and visited Teplicki’s home in January 2013, where 46 cannabis plants were found. Teplicki was straightforward in his acknowledgement of cultivating cannabis, and maintained that he was growing the plants exclusively for his own personal use to treat an eating disorder.
According to trial testimony, Teplicki has been suffering from severe anorexia since the age of 9, and he said that cannabis was the only treatment that effectively increased his appetite and reduced nausea. When Teplicki went on the stand at his trial he said “The thing is, orally you can’t just take a medication when you have my condition. You vomit, so to take something orally like a pill, it doesn’t work for me anyway.”
“Our brains will tell us, and our stomach will tell us that we are hungry,” said Michael Minardi, Teplicki’s attorney, last year. “His unfortunately does not work like that and again, this is severe, chronic anorexia from when he was a child.”
Prosecutor Kathleen O’Brien said that Teplicki failed to show he had a medical need for cannabis, and criticized Teplicki’s “self-diagnosing”, “self-medicating” and not seeking follow-up care from a physician. Teplicki told the Broward-Palm Beach New Times that when he was younger he had been prescribed steroids that were effective for a period of time, but had caused serious side effects including liver scarring and cysts. “I’ve been smoking it for 33 years, it works for me. This is the only source of relief that I have,” Teplicki said.
Teplicki rejected a probation offer from prosecutors and had told jurors that he was willing to accept a guilty verdict. “Jesse didn’t want to take the prosecution’s offer because he’s a family man, not a criminal,” said Minardi.
“This is a historic decision in the state of Florida,” Minardi told the Sun Sentinel. “Hopefully prosecutors heed the decision and are less likely to prosecute this kind of case in the future.” Minardi is considering taking civil action to protect Teplicki from future prosecution if he resumes growing marijuana.
While cannabis is currently illegal to possess, grow or sell in Florida, a medical marijuana bill was introduced by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) in January that would allow “registered patients and designated caregivers to purchase, acquire, and possess medical-grade marijuana subject to specified requirements.”