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Smoke It? An Idea Tough for Florida Lawmakers to Swallow

February 5, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants the Legislature to repeal a ban on smokable medical marijuana, but it became clear Monday that some fellow Republicans might not be on board.

DeSantis took office last month and said firmly that he wanted lawmakers to repeal the ban signed into law by now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. If they don’t do so by mid-March, DeSantis said he would drop Scott’s appeal of a court decision that declared the ban unconstitutional.

Florida Governor Wants to End Ban on Smokable Cannabis

But the first attempt to get a bill passed that would allow smokable medical marijuana was met with strong resistance, and the chairwoman of the Senate Health Policy Committee amended it to say that smokable medical marijuana can only be allowed if two doctors agree that it’s the only form of that plant a patient can use. Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell talked about the dangers of smoking marijuana.

“Let me tell you some of those risks, OK?” she said. “There is a significant association with smoking marijuana and cancer. Do you know that there are over than 33 carcinogens in marijuana smoke? I won’t name them for you. I could. I have the list, and I could name them for you, but take my word.”

“There's a little reefer madness going on in the Florida Senate right now.”

The bill at first died on a tie vote, but it was reconsidered and approved. It was a sign that the Republican-dominated Legislature has mixed feelings on the issue of smokable medical marijuana. Scott signed the bill to ban it, DeSantis wants to allow it, Republican bill sponsor Jeff Brandes doesn’t want Harrell’s restrictions, and Harrell and others on the committee either don’t want it, or want to severely restrict it.

“There’s a little reefer madness going on in the Florida Senate right now,” Brandes said after the meeting.

Is smoking cannabis bad for you?

Brandes said that he hopes to remove Harrell’s restrictions before the bill gets a full Senate floor vote. It has two more committee stops.

“This bill will not reach the floor with my name on it,” Brandes said of the amended legislation. “I’m not going to bring a bill to the floor that hurts patients.”

Legalized medical marijuana was approved by more than 71 percent of Florida’s voters in 2015, but the Legislature implemented the constitutional amendment with the smoking ban. Personal injury lawyer John Morgan largely funded the ballot measure and sued the state over the smoking ban. A circuit court judge agreed that the ban was unconstitutional, but Scott appealed.

Calls and texts to DeSantis’ media office weren’t immediately returned.

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