The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday declined to take up an appeal by a former state correctional officer who challenged his firing for using medical marijuana.
The court, as is common, did not explain its decision against hearing the challenge by Samuel Velez Ortiz, a former sergeant for the Florida Department of Corrections. But Thursday’s order effectively let stand a ruling last year by the 1st District Court of Appeal that upheld the firing.
Velez Ortiz was approved by a doctor to use medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder related to previous military service, according to documents filed in the case. He failed a random drug test in 2021, ultimately leading to his firing under a Department of Corrections “zero tolerance” policy.
Velez Ortiz challenged the firing and took the dispute to the 1st District Court of Appeal after the state Public Employees Relations Commission backed the dismissal.
While Florida voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment that allows use of medical marijuana, a three-judge panel of the appeals court pointed to marijuana being illegal under federal law and said Velez Ortiz would be committing a felony by using marijuana and possessing a gun. It said correctional officers, in part, are required to qualify with firearms and be able to be issued guns in situations such as prison riots.
“Because Mr. Velez Ortiz uses medicinal marijuana to treat his post-traumatic stress…