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‘About Damn Time’: Smokable Cannabis Coming to Florida

March 13, 2019
The old and new Florida State Capitol buildings in downtown Tallahassee, Florida.
This story was updated March 18, 2019.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill that repeals Florida’s ban on use of smokable medical marijuana.

The Republican governor signed the measure Monday, the first bill he has approved since taking office. DeSantis also announced the state is dropping its previous appeal of court rulings that also would have ended the ban.

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Voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, but lawmakers banned smokable forms of the plant in a bill signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott. The state was sued over that issue.

Under the new law, smokable medical marijuana would not be available to anyone under 18 unless the patient is terminally ill and if two doctors approve. Among other limitations, it could not be smoked in public or at private businesses subject to a cigarette smoking ban.


Originally posted Wednesday, March 13, 2019:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Legislature met Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ deadline to give him a bill to repeal the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana when the House passed the legislation Wednesday.

While lawmakers aren’t necessarily in favor of allowing medical marijuana to be smoked, they faced the prospects of having it become legal without any restrictions.

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“This is a difficult issue, and you’re going to have people on both sides; some that are happy that now this is available to them and others that feel that we didn’t go far enough,” House Speaker Jose Oliva said after the vote. “We did the best that we could do and still remain responsible.”

The bill is the first to go to the governor in the 60-day legislative session that began last week and the only bill the House has considered at this point.

Voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, but lawmakers banned smokable forms of the plant in a bill signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2017. The state was sued over the issue and a judge declared the ban unconstitutional. Scott, now a Republican U.S. senator, appealed the ruling. DeSantis said in late January that the current law doesn’t represent the will of the voters and that he would drop the appeal if lawmakers didn’t repeal the ban by mid-March.

Lawmakers quickly followed up on his ultimatum. The bill is the first to go to the governor in the 60-day legislative session that began last week and the only bill the House has considered at this point. The Senate passed the repeal six days earlier and the House passed it on a 101-11 vote without debate.

The bill places several conditions on smokable medical marijuana. It would not be available to anyone under the age of 18 unless the patient is terminally ill and if two doctors, one of them a pediatrician, say it is the most effective form of treatment. It could not be smoked in public or at private businesses subject to the state’s cigarette smoking ban.

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Private property owners would have the right to prohibit it. Patients wouldn’t be able to possess more than four ounces of marijuana in a smokable form.

Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues sponsored the bill and pointed out that law pass two years ago was widely supported even with the smoking ban.

“We passed that bill 109 to nine,” Rodrigues said. “Many of us feel like we got it right.”

But if DeSantis were to drop the lawsuit appeal, Rodrigues said, there would be no rules guiding smokable medical marijuana.

DeSantis’ office didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment on the bill’s passage.

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Judge Says Florida’s Ban on Smokable Medical Marijuana Is Unconstitutional

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who advocated for a repeal of the smoking ban, praised the vote in a news release.

“Today’s action to finally allow smokable medical marijuana brings four words to the lips of people across our state: It’s about damn time,” said Fried, a Democrat. “It’s long past due that the State of Florida honored the will of the people and allowed doctors to determine their patient’s course of treatment.”

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  • LynnieM

    At 67 years old, I’m too damn old to go buy weed in the Florida streets. SS and medicare doesn’t exactly afford me the opportunity to get a card and purchase through a dispensary. The “marijuana doctors” are seeing the money flow in…once again, many of us folks that can benefit from this wonderful and safe plant cannot afford to “go legal.” Waiting and hoping for that day…

    • Jeremy King

      This is too true. We’re right back to the days of cannabis “tax stamps” that ensured only the wealthy had access to it. Besides, I’m incentivized to keep buying off the streets because it’s just cheaper.

  • Jeremy King

    Something this AP article doesn’t address is a huge one for a lot of people: what are the rules going to be on growing personal amounts at home? I’ve had an interest in the extremely robust hobby of cannabis horticulture for decades, but it’s always been too risky to try and cultivate my own. Now that smoking is legal, we need to be able to have a reasonable number of plants on our property for personal consumption. It’s a damn shame we have to fight the supposed “freedom from government” party every step of the way on this issue.

  • ROBINTHEUSA

    It’s now a done deal.