By Gray Rohrer
Patients who receive medical marijuana from their doctors will be able to smoke the substance legally, under a bill signed into law Monday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The bill is the first of DeSantis' short tenure and an early legislative victory. DeSantis insisted that lawmakers repeal the state's ban on smokable medical marijuana by last Friday, or he would drop the state's appeal of an ongoing lawsuit over the ban.
More than 70 percent of voters approved a ballot measure in 2016 legalizing marijuana for medical use, but the Legislature passed a bill a year later that nevertheless banned it in smokable forms.
Orlando attorney John Morgan, who bankrolled the push to put the measure on the ballot, filed suit, saying the intent of the amendment allowed for smokable marijuana. A lower court agreed but Gov. Rick Scott, DeSantis' predecessor, appealed the ruling last year.
"It means the will of the people has been heard," Morgan wrote to the Orlando Sentinel in an email. "For the sick and injured (it means) an alternative to opioids and pharmaceutical poison. Taken all together it means hope, safe wellness and victory for the people. My job is now done."
Morgan, who attended an Orlando news conference where DeSantis called for the repeal, added that he signed off on DeSantis' motion dismissing the appeal of his lawsuit.
"I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld," DeSantis said in a released statement. "Now that we have honored our duty to find a legislative solution, I have honored my commitment and filed a joint motion to dismiss the state's appeal."
The new law takes effect immediately, but it could take time for the Department of Health, the agency that oversees the state's medical marijuana program, to approve new rules to guide doctors, meaning patients might have to wait a little longer for smokable forms.
Other parts of the law require patients under 18 to get a second opinion from a pediatrician and be diagnosed with a terminal illness before accessing smokable marijuana. There's also $1.5 million per year set aside for the State University System Board of Governors to dole out to schools to conduct research.
Qualified patients can receive up to a 210-day supply at a time, the equivalent of six 35-day doses of a maximum 2.5 ounces.
The budding marijuana industry in Florida appears eager to get smokable products to the market.
"We stand ready to meet the needs of patients whose doctors order smokable products and are confident that the Department of Health is moving with all due haste," said Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve, a medical marijuana dispensary. "Trulieve looks forward to selling safe smokable flower to our patients."
(c)2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)