Newly-elected Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) wants a new law by mid-March that will end a smoking ban on medical marijuana and loosen limits on treatment center licenses.
Florida voters approved the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative on November 8, 2016, paving the way for Amendment 2 which permits the use of medical marijuana for those with debilitating illnesses, as recommended by a physician.
However, DeSantis has criticized the Legislature’s implementation of Amendment 2 and is threatening to intervene if no steps are taken to remedy the situation.
If the Legislature fails to act, DeSantis will drop challenges to lawsuits – effectively letting the courts resolve them instead of lawmakers – though he said he would prefer not to do that.
“I want to have the elected representatives write the law in a way the people intended, so we’ll give them a couple of weeks in session to address the smoking issue, and if they don’t do it, we’re going to dismiss the case and move on,” DeSantis said.
He addressed the media at Winter Park, near Orlando, accompanied by John Morgan who led the effort to put the medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot. It was approved by more than 71 percent of voters.
Morgan also sued the state over the smoking ban, publicizing it with the slogan, “No smoke is a joke.”
In May 2018, Florida Judge Karen Gievers ruled in favor of Morgan, saying Floridians had a right to use the medical marijuana treatment recommended by their physicians, including smokable marijuana in private places. The same day of the ruling, the Florida Department of Health filed an appeal in federal court in Tallahassee, saying the verdict goes against the intent of the Florida Legislature, which called it a health risk.
“What’s next is no smoke is no longer a joke. It’s a victory for the people of Florida,” Morgan said before the press conference. “Litigation should always be the last resort … Negotiation should be the best resort. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to step back a few inches, give them a chance to get it right and if they don’t get it right, then they’re going to get it another way.”
DeSantis replaced fellow Republican Rick Scott, who is now a U.S. senator, last month. Multiple sources close to state regulators have said that the new government administration will be dropping the appeal and will allow for smoking medical marijuana.
DeSantis also indicated that he wants the amended law to address licensing limits that are also the subject of lawsuits.
“They created a cartel, essentially,” he said. “That is not good policy, so I’d like them to address that as well.”
Florida’s new Republican legislative leaders, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva, said they’ll work with DeSantis to amend the law. Galvano said in a press release that implementing the constitutional amendment “has been an ongoing problem mired in complex and protracted legal challenges.”
“Governor DeSantis has indicated that he prefers a legislative solution rather than a judicial order to bring the issue of implementation of the amendment to a conclusion. A legislative solution has always been my preferred course of action, and we will certainly honor the Governor’s request,” Galvano said.
The annual legislative session begins March 5.