New Florida Governor Pushes Back on Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban
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New Florida Governor Pushes Back on Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban

Gov. Ron DeSantis gives legislature deadline to change this rule, or he’ll drop state’s appeal in ongoing lawsuit.

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January 18, 2019

In a Jan. 17 press conference in Winter Park, newly inaugurated Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said that he wants the medical marijuana smoking ban tossed out. He gave the state legislature until March to work out a change—otherwise, he’ll drop the state’s appeal in an ongoing lawsuit and allow a judicial order to stand.

Either way, the ban on smoking medical marijuana in Florida is just about over.

"I want people to have their suffering relieved," DeSantis said. “I don’t think this law is up to snuff.”

The smoking ban has been but one issue that’s landed in a series of Florida courtrooms since state lawmakers passed a 2017 “implementation law,” which enacted the 2016 constitutional amendment approved by voters. Those voters, however, and several state circuit judges have insisted that the law actually subverts the will of the people; the amendment approved by voters makes no mention of a ban on smoking medical marijuana.

It’s unclear how things will work out after DeSantis’ decree, but he did say that he’d rather have lawmakers clarify the matter. “I am somebody who respects the prerogative of the legislature,” he said. “I don’t want these things handled judicially if we can help it.”

Other issues of contention between the state legislature and the voters of Florida include a cap on the number of business licenses allowed in the state and a cap on the number of retail dispensaries that each business may open. DeSantis hasn’t openly discussed the two lawsuits that deal with those matters, but he recently told reporters that he’s “not committed” to dragging out a lengthy appeals process like his predecessor, Gov. Rick Scott. (Judges in both of those lawsuits have deemed the cap on licenses to be unconstitutional.)  

"When the people overwhelmingly voted for legalized medical marijuana in 2016, they intended for the medicine to be accessible by patients in the manner which their doctor, not Tallahassee politicians, decides is best for their treatment," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a public statement, following DeSantis’ press conference this week and looking ahead to those license cap debates. "The state needs to increase the number of licensed medical marijuana growers to create a more open market, greater competition, more affordable prices, and a greater level of access to medicine for Florida’s patients.”