[Editor’s Note: Florida medical patients will finally be able to have their medicine in the form that suits them best. It’s been a long battle, but the finish line is almost here.]
Since voters in Florida legalized medical marijuana in 2016, it has continued to be a fight for some patients to get the medicine they need. Amendment 2 was intended to allow all forms of medical marijuana, but the state legislature took it upon themselves to ban smokable forms of the plant – and for some patients, this is the most effective way to medicate. Patients took this issue to court, where a judge found that the state had gone against the constitutional amendment. Of course, the state appealed this ruling almost immediately.
As it turns out, the election of Governor Ron DeSantis was a very good thing for the medical marijuana battle in Florida. DeSantis gave legislature the choice of either amending the law to remove the smoking ban or he would drop their appeal in court. He gave them a deadline of March 15 – which is only 10 days after the annual legislative session starts – to address the issue.
“What the Florida Legislature has done to implement the people’s will has not been done in accordance with what the amendment envisioned,” Gov. DeSantis said at a press conference on Jan. 17. “Whether they (patients) have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge that? I want people to be able to have their suffering relieved. I don’t think this law is up to snuff.”
Originally, the House had introduced a plan that would have required doctors to get approval from a “case review panel” before they would be able to recommend smokable forms of medical cannabis. However, this was also nixed – only requiring patients under 18 years old to get secondary approval to access medical marijuana. The latest amendment (which was approved with a 14-2 vote by the House Health and Human Services Committee) would only allow pre-rolled and filtered joints, in an effort to address lawmakers’ concerns about health complications from smoking.
“If that [court] decision were to stand, what we would be facing essentially would be the wild, wild west when it comes to using medical marijuana. We believe there should be guardrails around that. That’s why we’ve reconvened and put this bill together moving forward,” House Health and Human Services Chairman Ray Rodrigues told reporters after his committee signed off on a proposal to allow patients to smoke medical marijuana.
After all this, the state wants to put on the appearance that addressing these issues were their own idea – but it is something that patients have been pushing for since lawmakers first wrote legislation to accompany the medical marijuana amendment that voters passed. After courtroom battles and a great deal of patient testimony, it appears that lawmakers are finally ready to be on-board with allowing smokable marijuana for patients who need it.