Light ’em up: Lawmakers OK smokable medical marijuana

The bill next heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Legislature on Wednesday gave Gov. Ron DeSantis what he asked for: A repeal of the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana.

The House took up a Senate bill (SB 182) and passed it unchanged and without debate on a 101-11 vote. It should be the first measure DeSantis, a Ponte Vedra Beach Republican, signs into law.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, who had worked on the compromise language with Sen. Jeff Brandes, told fellow House members he knew he would not “have all your votes today,” but said the legislation offered “important … guardrails” to protect patients.

Among other things, the legislation allows “a 35-day supply of marijuana in a form for smoking” but not to “exceed 2.5 ounces unless an exception to this amount is approved” by the Department of Health.

That marijuana still has to be bought from licensed providers and can’t be smoked in public. Moreover, patients under 18 must be terminally ill and a second doctor must confirm the first physician’s recommendation of smokable cannabis.

Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, elected in part because of her support of hemp and medical cannabis, tweeted after the vote that it “brings four words to the lips of people across our state: It’s about damn time.

“It’s long past due that Florida honored the will of the people (and) allowed doctors to determine their patient’s course of treatment,” she wrote.

To that, Orlando attorney and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan tweeted in response: “Amen and amen!”

Morgan organized the lawsuit against the smoking ban. He also bankrolled and supported the 2016 state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. It was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters.

Morgan won a ruling from Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers that said the amendment allows smokable marijuana, despite a ban on it that lawmakers later put in state law.

After taking office this year, DeSantis told lawmakers that if a repeal bill didn’t make it to his desk by mid-March, he would drop the state’s appeal of Gievers’ ruling.

The Governor also tweeted: “I thank the Florida Legislature for taking action on medical marijuana and upholding the will of the voters.” Under the state constitution, he has until next Wednesday to sign it, or it automatically becomes law without his approval.

The Governor’s Office did not immediately announce any bill-signing plans. He had appeared at a press conference in Winter Park last month with Morgan and Panhandle GOP U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz, another medical marijuana supporter, to call on lawmakers to act.

Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, offered words of warning to doctors who order marijuana for their patients, saying he hoped there would be no abuses.

“We will be watching and hoping the best occurs,” he said on the floor, placing trust in the medical community to police itself.

Republican House Speaker José Oliva told reporters after Wednesday’s floor session that “to treat marijuana as a medicine, we did the best we could do and still remain responsible.”

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Cogent Observer

    March 13, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Idiotic. People who use neither pot nor alcohol cause enough collisions and injuries by their simple carelessness. Coupled with the geniuses who are now discussing the legalization of “recreational” pot, those of us with our wits about us are less safe than ever.

    Although “the government” will ostensibly regulate the “medical” version and the dispensaries that sell it, we’ve seen what a fine job it has done in regulating proven entities involved in selling and prescribing proven “medicines.” Rarely a day goes by when we don’t hear about a “pill mill” operating from a medical office or similar location. Those prescriptions were given for products that were developed for a medical purpose. But “medical marijuana”? It was developed from a plant historically used to induce euphoria.

    Who is kidding who? Who stands to profit? The porcine Orlando lawyer who touts that he bankrolled the effort at legalization? I’ll bet that his office would like the quick settlements from cases where people were injured by drivers driving while high. The growers? The sellers?

    Everybody–don’t be conned. If you are in pain take a proven pain medication. If you have seizures, see a neurologist–there are many good, proven medications. If money is an issue, many drug companies will help with the cost.

    • Mike

      March 14, 2019 at 9:07 am

      You are just beyond stupid. Where is your statistical information that back your claims. To date marijuana still has a zero death count. Alcohol has a daily death toll. And the scientific evidence of marijuana helping cancer patients and PTSD sufferers is beyond reproach. To me you sound like a person who has watch way to much reefer madness and believe it to be fact. Marijuana is not addictive minus some individual who allows the “high” to overcome their own willpower. But constant research is resulting is positive feedback, and the realization that humans up until 1933 smoked and use other marijuana infused medicine for 1000s of years.

  • Frankie M.

    March 14, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Bundle in some $$ for KIPP & Fischer will flip his vote.

  • Mark E Talboom DC

    March 14, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    Nice, but this is just more game-playing on the way to recreational marijuana in the state. It has been years since government propaganda came out with nonsense like the movie “Reefer Madness”

    Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which restricted possession to those who paid a steep tax for a limited set of medical and industrial applications. In 1944 the La Guardia Committee report from the New York Academy of Medicine was the first in a long line of official bodies to question the prohibition. The committee found marijuana not physically addictive, not a gateway drug and that it did not lead to crime. But Harry Anslinger, head of the then–Federal Bureau of Narcotics (the precursor to the DEA) ruled for 3 decades, labeled the report unscientific and prohibition rolled on. Anslinger was a racist who conflated drug use, race, and music to criminalize non-whiteness and create a prison-industrial complex.

    In the beginning, Anslinger conflated drug use, race, and music. “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men,” he was quoted as saying. “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

    “Doctors,” he said knowingly, “cannot treat addicts even if they wish to.” He called instead for “tough judges not afraid to throw killer-pushers into prison and throw away the key.” This set the tone for years regarding pot use, medical or otherwise.

    As a result, the 1937 legislation was ostensibly a revenue measure. Just as the Harrison Act used taxation and regulation to, in effect, prohibit morphine, heroin and other drugs, the Marijuana Tax Act essentially outlawed the possession or sale of marijuana. More stringent measures followed. In 1952, the Boggs Act provided stiff mandatory sentences for offenses involving a variety of drugs, including marijuana.

    in 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which established categories, or schedules, into which individual drugs were placed depending on their perceived medical usefulness and potential for abuse. Marijuana was classified a Schedule I, as were Cocaine and Heroin, the most restrictive category, contained drugs that the federal government deemed as having no valid medical uses and a high potential for abuse. This was part of Richard Nixon’s war on drugs. You have to remember this was during the era o HIPPIES, who for the most part despised Tricky Dick whose animus toward the counterculture with which he associated marijuana. He dismissed his own Shafer Commission which in 1972 which recommended that marijuana be decriminalized and removed from the Schedule I list making it difficult for physicians to procure marijuana for research. Richard Nixon saw pot prohibition as a way to destroy the antiwar left, according to clandestine recordings made by Nixon in the White House as well as statements from his staff to the press. Nixon convened The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (what became known as the Shafer Commission) to engineer scientific support for cannabis’s Schedule I placement. “I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana,” Nixon said in tapes from 1971. “Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, domestic council? … I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.”

    This ignorant and bigoted anti-marijuana mindset has led to its vilification and subsequently encouraged the federal & state governments to pass laws prohibiting its use in any form. People are now accessing clean and safe cannabis products with greater ease, and discovering they have been lied to for generations about cannabis’ dangers and risks.

    Now we have the Republican-dominated Florida legislature has simply tried to thwart its purchase & use by ridiculous interpretations against the will of the people who petitioned for and voted for CHANGE & LEGALIZATION. The legislature’s attempt to restrict its purchase and use by restricting access has failed and will continue to fail as Florida marches toward legalization of RECREATIONAL marijuana. That is inevitable. Instead of fighting this, the state would better off taking better control by funding research which would permit further study, rather than merely saturating the market with products that are not regulated for quality or potency.

    We also look to dispensaries in Colorado whose revenues reached a billion dollars in sales and $200 million in taxes in 2018 according to the Denver Post. Imagine what could be done with all that pot money. Colorado cities use theirs for transit systems, resolving homelessness and most importantly EDUCATION, which Florida can sorely use since they scammed the public with the State Lottery which was SUPPOSED to go to fund schools.

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