DeSantis signs bill to allow smokable pot

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs smokable medical marijuana bill into law

By Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Pointing to the “will of the voters,” Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a measure repealing Florida’s ban on smokable medical marijuana.

Shortly after he took over as governor in January, DeSantis gave the Legislature until March 15 to do away with the smoking ban. If they didn’t act, the Republican governor threatened to drop the state’s appeal of a court decision that found the smoking prohibition violated a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana in Florida.

Lawmakers met the deadline, with the House giving final approval Wednesday.

“Over 70 percent of Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016. I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

The Republican-controlled Legislature included the prohibition against smoking medical marijuana in a 2017 law aimed at carrying out the constitutional amendment.

John Morgan, an Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled the amendment, led the lawsuit challenging the smoking ban. Morgan, a political rainmaker who has generally supported Democratic candidates, has showered the Republican governor with praise since joining DeSantis at a January event where the governor delivered the ultimatum to the Legislature.

“My job is done. The will of the people has been heard! Really sick and injured people now have a path to safe wellness. Now on to slay other dragons! #ForThePeople,” Morgan said in one of a series of Twitter posts after DeSantis announced he had signed the measure.

House Republican leaders and some conservative senators had balked at reversing the smoking ban, arguing that they had concerns about negative health effects of smoking on sick patients.

But the House and Senate made a series of concessions in reaching agreement on lifting the smoking ban. They agreed on a compromise measure (SB 182) that allows patients to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for smoking every 35 days and have up to 4 ounces of cannabis in their possession at any time.

Under the new law, which went into effect immediately, terminally ill children can smoke the cannabis treatment, but only if they have a second opinion from a pediatrician. Smoking of medical marijuana in public places is banned.

Also Monday, DeSantis’ administration and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed a joint motion in the 1st District Court of Appeal, asking that the case be dismissed.

“Now that we have honored our duty to find a legislative solution, I have honored my commitment and filed a joint motion to dismiss the state’s appeal and to vacate the lower court decision which had held the prior law to be unconstitutional,” DeSantis said in the prepared statement.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat who in the past lobbied for the medical marijuana industry and who made medical cannabis the cornerstone of her election campaign last year, hailed the repeal of the smoking ban, calling it a “landmark victory for patients across Florida and for our democracy.”

“It’s a triumph owed to the relentless advocacy of Floridians who refused to be silenced. Our state must not disregard the voice of its people --- when the people’s will is nullified by those with authority, liberty cannot survive,” Fried said in a statement.

The state’s largest medical marijuana operator, Trulieve, said the Quincy-based company looks forward to selling “safe, smokable flower” to its customers.

“We stand ready to meet the needs of patients whose doctors order smokable products and are confident that the Department of Health is moving with all due haste,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said.

News Service of Florida