Florida Reconsiders Ban On Smoking Medical Cannabis

By Kelly Burch 02/15/19

Governor Ron DeSantis is pressuring lawmakers to repeal the ban after the state lost a court case on the issue.

Man smoking medical marijuana which is banned in Florida

Patients in Florida who participate in the state’s medical marijuana program may soon be able to light up, but they may not be able to roll their own joints. 

This week the Florida House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow patients to smoke medical marijuana, but only from pre-rolled, filtered joints, according to The Orlando Sentinel

Currently Florida does not allow patients to smoke medical marijuana, while it is legal in pill, oil, vape or edible form. Some medical marijuana proponents argue that smoking provides the best therapeutic relief because it draws from all of the cannabis compounds, not just isolated ingredients like CBD or THC.

John Goodson, a military veteran, says that he has tried other forms of medical marijuana, but they “are not as helpful as the smokable cannabis” for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

“I have PTSD from Iraq,” he said. “It really shook my nerves to come up here, but it’s by far the most effective drug that I’ve had.”

However, state officials are concerned that allowing smoking would blur the lines between medical and recreational use of cannabis. 

Governor Ron DeSantis is pressuring lawmakers to change the medical marijuana statute after the state lost a court case on the issue. The court ruled that the ban on smoking medical marijuana violated the constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana in Florida.

DeSantis said that he would give lawmakers until March 15 to figure out a solution, or he would drop the state’s appeal of the case, essentially allowing the court's ruling in favor of smoking marijuana to stand. 

House Health and Human Services Chairman Ray Rodrigues said that lawmakers are working together to come to a solution in line with the constitution, that also leaves some safeguards in place. 

“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,” said Rodrigues. 

The state senate has approved a measure that would essentially remove the ban on smoking. Patients would be allowed to buy marijuana, roll their own joints and smoke with paraphernalia they purchase. 

It’s not clear how the House and Senate measures will ultimately be resolved, but it does appear likely that Florida medical cannabis patients will soon be able to smoke weed in some form.

"We'll ultimately find a place to land this," said Sen. Jeff Brandes, who is sponsoring the Senate bill. "I think the March 15 deadline no longer seems out of reach."

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