DeSantis gives Florida lawmakers medical marijuana reform ultimatum

DeSantis speaks at his press conference, giving lawmakers a March deadline to repeal the law prohibiting smokeable medical marijuana.
Photo Courtesy of Willie J. Allen Jr., Tampa Bay Times. 

Major medical marijuana reform may be coming to Florida after Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supported two Senate bills that would allow access to smokable forms of treatment.

On Jan. 17, Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale) submitted SB 372, which would legalize smokable marijuana and expand access. On Jan. 13, Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) filed SB 182, which would redefine the term “medical use” to include smoking. The bill would also allow medical marijuana treatment centers to sell products such as rolling papers, pipes and bongs.

“Florida voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana in 2016, and I believe the subsequent legislation has been inadequate,” said DeSantis. “Voters intended for medical marijuana to be dispensed in a way that would best benefit the patient, smoking included.”

DeSantis has also filed a motion with the First District Court of Appeal requesting a stay of opinion on People United for Medical Marijuana v. Department of Health. Lawmakers must present DeSantis with a legislative solution within the first two weeks of the 2019 legislative session or he said he'll drop the state’s appeal, ruling Florida’s ban on smoking medical marijuana unconstitutional.

In 2016, Florida voters approved The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2. In 2017, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill legalizing access to pill, oil, edible and vape forms of the drug, but not smokable forms. The law also capped both the number of dispensaries in the state and the amount of licenses issued.

DeSantis has been governing during his first month in office as more of a moderate than conservative. His push for a legislative decision over the judicial order is supported by many legislative and industry leaders.

“We will certainly honor the governor’s request to bring a bill forward early in session that addresses both his concerns and those raised in litigation. Many senators share these concerns and have ideas they are interested in advancing, which include smokable forms of treatment. I look forward to continuing those important discussions in the coming weeks,” Senate President Bill Galvano said.

House Speaker Jose Oliva also praised DeSantis in a statement, applauding his willingness to engage both the House and Senate with swiftness.

“Governor DeSantis’ announcement showed us that he stands with the patients of Florida and that a person should be able to take their medicine however they and their doctor see fit,” said Karen Basha Egozi, President and CEO of Epilepsy Florida.

Lawmakers must remove the ban on the state law quickly when the legislative session begins on March 5 or the appeal will be dropped.