In landslide vote, Florida House agrees to end ban on smoking medical marijuana
TALLAHASSEE – Without much debate and two days before Gov. Ron DeSantis’ deadline, a bill to repeal a ban on smoking medical marijuana has finally rolled onto the governor’s desk.
The Florida House affirmed the right to smoke medical pot Wednesday afternoon, approving the Senate bill to include “smoking” to the language in the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The bill allows patients to receive up to 2.5 ounces of whole flower cannabis every 35 days as recommended by their qualified doctor.
The bill passed 101-11. Seven representatives were not present for the vote.
DeSantis in January tasked the Legislature with amending Florida law to allow smoking medical marijuana. If legislators didn’t by the March 15 deadline he set, the governor said he would do so with litigation.
House Speaker José Oliva has openly criticized smoking medicinal marijuana as an option, saying efforts to legalize it are just “some cover” for getting access to recreational marijuana.
“I’ve been in the smoke business my entire life and I’ve never heard anyone say it’s good for you,” the Miami Lakes Republican and cigar company CEO said then.
On Wednesday, Oliva told reporters that he had reservations then and still has them now.
“This is a difficult issue … This is the best that we could do and still remain responsible,” he said. “I would certainly have been interested to hear what would have come of that appeal. We might still. But I think that the most important thing was that the elected lawmakers of the state have an opportunity to legislate how this will be governed in our state.”
In 2016, about 71 percent of voting Floridians approved a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. While the 2017 bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott legalized access to the drug in pill, oil, edible and vape form, it made smoking it illegal.
The provision, which became known as the “smoking ban,” was challenged in circuit court in July 2017. In May 2018, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled the smoking ban to be unconstitutional, but the Department of Health appealed the ruling. After DeSantis announced his intent to drop the appeal, both parties filed a motion to stay the appeal until this month.
In addition to repealing the ban on smoking, the bill passed Wednesday also establishes a Medical Marijuana Research and Education Board. The board will oversee a research consortium established by the state university system’s Board of Governors, which will receive $1.5 million for the program. Instead of only including the University of Florida as the previous law did, all universities can apply to participate. House bill sponsor Rep. Ray Rodrigues said expanding the research is something that “we would be benefited from.”
The bill also requires a second opinion from…