On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 182 into law, giving medical marijuana patients the right to smoke cannabis flower. While it will take a little bit more time for regulators to adjust to the change, with Florida’s booming cannabis industry and all the pot already growing there, it will likely be sooner than later.
The battle for access to smokeable cannabis has been waging in the Sunshine State for years. Florida voters approved a medical marijuana law in 2016, but then regulators released rules that limited access to the cannabis flower. Advocates sued then-Gov. Rick Scott and lower courts found that the lack of access was unconstitutional and not what Florida voters had in mind when they voted for legal medical marijuana. The state appealed the ruling, but it’s all in the past now. On Monday, DeSantis filed a joint motion to toss the case that has no need to see Florida’s higher courts. In a statement he released after signing the bill Monday, DeSantis reminded everyone he had previously called on elected officials to bring him the bill in January.
“Over 70 percent of Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016,” said DeSantis. “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.”
One of the patients at the heart of the story about SB 182 becoming law is Cathy Jordan. After the bill became law, the Miami Herald recapped the long road Jordan traveled to legally smoke her medicine. Jordan was originally diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1986 and given five months to live.
Jordan had considered taking her own like before she tried cannabis for the first time and found relief for her symptoms. “I didn’t believe her,” Jordan’s husband Bob told the Herald. “But as we got more aware of it, we found out when she has cannabis she’s better. And when she doesn’t have it, she’s sick.”
Unfortunately, Jordan’s advocacy made her a target. Not long after the legislature saw a medical marijuana bill named for her was filed in the Florida statehouse, the Manatee County Sheriff raided her home, confiscating 23 plants. Nobody went to jail that day, but Jordan’s medicine was gone.
That tragedy would act as the catalyst for the Jordans to get in touch with Orlando, Florida attorney John Morgan. Morgan would lead and bankroll much of the effort to legalize medical marijuana, and then to legalize smoking it.
“For the sick and injured [it means] an alternative to opioids and pharmaceutical poison. Taken all together it means hope, safe wellness and victory for the people.”
Morgan spoke with his hometown paper, the Orlando Sentinel, on the big victory. “It means the will of the people has been heard,” Morgan told the paper in an email. “For the sick and injured [it means] an alternative to opioids and pharmaceutical poison. Taken all together it means hope, safe wellness and victory for the people. My job is now done.”
The Sentinel also reported there are currently 108 dispensaries in Florida and the state has received more than 250,000 patient applications according to data provided by the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
Finally, the Sentinel noted people are a bit hesitant to light the fireworks at Epcot yet in celebration. The state hasn’t even found a way to regulate edibles yet, and some fear the prospects for smokeable marijuana will fall into a similar void. Nevertheless, others believe that with DeSantis backing the effort, regulators will move faster to release the rules.
The Department of Health didn’t respond to inquiries on when smokable pot would be legal for purchase, but one dispensary spokeswoman told The Sentinel she was hoping in a week.
The Marijuana Policy Project told Cannabis Now that DeSantis’s signing of SB 182 was a good move for patients.
“This is a very positive development for patients, who should have the option of using whatever form of cannabis is best for them,” said MPP spokesman Mason Tvert. “Some find smoking is the best way to titrate their dosage and ensure they are consuming their medication in the most effective and cost-efficient way. While smoking may not be recommended for some patients, such as those with certain respiratory problems, it may be perfectly suitable for others. There was never any reasonable justification for prohibiting it across the board.”
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