Florida Ends Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban

By Kelly Burch 03/25/19
"It's a triumph owed to the relentless advocacy of Floridians who refused to be silenced," said the state's Agriculture Commissioner.
person rolling a medical marijuana joint

Nearly two years after the state approved a medical marijuana program, officials in Florida have made it possible for people to smoke medical marijuana by lifting a ban on selling marijuana buds in the state. 

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill that removed the ban on Monday (March 18). He had been pushing for the legislature to pass such a law that would lift the ban, after a court in Florida ruled that prohibiting smokable medical marijuana violated the state’s constitution, which was amended to allow medical marijuana use. 

"Over 70% of Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016,” DeSantis tweeted last Monday. “I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld.”

Because of the change to state law, Florida will not appeal the court ruling, DeSantis said. 

“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,” he tweeted. 

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a statement reported by CBS News that the removal of the ban was a victory for voters who had come out in favor of medical marijuana.

"It's a triumph owed to the relentless advocacy of Floridians who refused to be silenced," said Fried. "Our state must not disregard the voice of its people—when the people's will is nullified by those with authority, liberty cannot survive.”

The law takes effect immediately, but in practice it will take time for the Florida health department to set standards for prescribing smokable marijuana, so there could be a delay for patients, CBS reported.

With the new law, medical marijuana patients who are older than 18 will be able to access 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 35 days. 

Yet, by Thursday, at least one medical marijuana patient in Florida was able to purchase marijuana flower, according to Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve, the dispensary that made the first sale. 

“Offering these whole flower products to our patients in their purest, most-effective form is something we—and patients—have been looking forward to since we opened the doors of the state’s first dispensary,” Rivers said in a statement, reported by The Orlando Sentinel

Doug Dixon, 59, was the first patient to make a legal smokable marijuana purchase in the state.

“I didn’t know if I would ever see it in my time," he said. “But it is good to see it. It is good to have the alternative. These pharmaceuticals are killing people. I have lost so many family members.’’

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.