It’s done. Gov. DeSantis signs law to let sick people smoke weed

By: - March 18, 2019 12:00 pm

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis today signed his first-ever bill into law – the medical marijuana bill that allows sick Floridians to legally smoke marijuana.

The new law, supporters say, carries out the will of Florida’s voters who overwhelmingly approved a 2016 state Constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana.

The law takes effect immediately. But industry officials and advocates say patients won’t be able to get smokable medical marijuana until the state develops rules and procedures for distributing the drug in a smokable form.

The law lets patients get a 35-day supply of up to 2.5 ounces of smokable medical marijuana. They can refill the prescription five times without returning to the doctor’s office. Patients can’t possess more than 4 ounces of the drug at a time.

The legislation also bans people from smoking marijuana in public. It  allows terminally ill children to smoke medical marijuana, if approved by their doctors along with a second opinion from a pediatrician.

Prior to the law, medical marijuana was only available to patients in non-smokable forms, such as in drops, vape pens or oral syringes.

“Over 70 percent of Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016,” DeSantis said. “I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld. 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 and to vacate the lower court decision which had held the prior law to be unconstitutional.”

A legal filing Monday afternoon with the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee revealed the Republican governor’s anticipated action, although he was scheduled to formally announce the decision on Tuesday.

In the court filing, the state and several organizations and patients who had sued the state seeking to use smokable medical marijuana jointly asked for the state’s appeal of the lawsuit to be dropped. The appeal was filed by the state under former Gov. Rick Scott. The state Department of Health, the Office of Medical Marijuana Use along with the People United for Medical Marijuana, Florida for Care Inc. and several patients who had filed a lawsuit said the appeal is now “moot” since DeSantis signed the bill.

DeSantis’ action was expected. Shortly after taking office in January, he had threatened to drop the state’s appeal of the trial court decision. He said he agreed with the challengers who asserted smokable medical marijuana was allowed under the constitutional amendment. He gave lawmakers until mid-March to resolve the issue.

The Republican-led Legislature complied. The Senate approved the bill by a 34-4 vote on March 7 and the House approved it in a 101-11 vote last week.

John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who led the effort to amend the state Constitution in 2016, praised the governor’s decision.

“My job is done. The will of the people has been heard! Really sick and injured people now have a path to safe wellness,” Morgan tweeted

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Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger

Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.