The state of Florida is finally moving toward reversing its medical cannabis smoking ban. Florida’s House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 182 on Wednesday, effectively adding “smoking” to the state’s medical cannabis constitutional amendment. The bill is now sitting on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.
Under the new Senate bill, medical cannabis patients in Florida can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower every 35 days. The vote on the bill was a landslide, as it passed 101-11 with seven representatives absent from the vote.
Back in January, DeSantis called on the Legislature to reverse the ban on smokable cannabis, and he gave them a March 15 deadline to do so. The governor vowed to reverse the ban with litigation if the Legislature didn’t meet his deadline.
House Speaker José Oliva has criticized smoking medical cannabis in the past, calling it a cover for allowing recreational cannabis. On Wednesday, he doubled down on his opinion, telling reporters, “This is a difficult issue . . . This is the best that we could do and still remain responsible,” he said. “I would certainly have been interested to hear what would have come of that appeal. We might still. But I think that the most important thing was that the elected lawmakers of the state have an opportunity to legislate how this will be governed in our state.”
Seventy-one percent of voters in Florida approved the state’s medical cannabis amendment back in 2016. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law, but it only allowed cannabis in edible, oil, pill and vaporizable forms. Smoking cannabis was banned. The smoking ban was then challenged in court in 2017 and was deemed unconstitutional in May 2018. Florida’s Department of Health appealed that ruling.
The Senate bill will also create a Medical Marijuana Research and Education Board. It will receive $1.5 million for cannabis research purposes. Under the bill, non-terminal patients who are minors will need to receive a second opinion from a board-certified pediatrician in order to receive a cannabis recommendation. Finally, under the bill, medical cannabis treatment centers will be prohibited from selling cannabis gear like rolling papers, pipes and other consumption devices.
DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law, which could happen even before the deadline he originally gave TO the Legislature.