Will Florida Repeal Its Ban On Marijuana Smoking?

By Paul Gaita 01/29/19

Florida's newly elected governor says the ban was not "up to snuff." 

Florida man smoking marijuana

Newly elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has asked his state's legislature to drop a ban on smoking marijuana.

DeSantis, a Republican, announced his decision at a press conference on January 17, where he said the ban was not "up to snuff," and doubled down on his decision by stating that if lawmakers don't implement the change by mid-March, he'll drop former governor Rick Scott's appeal of a judge's ruling which prohibited the ban because it violated the state's amendment to legalize medical cannabis

Amendment 2 was intended to legalize the use of medical marijuana for individuals living with a variety of debilitating conditions or ailments with the approval of a licensed state physician. Though 71% of voters approved the bill in 2016, the state legislature did not implement Amendment 2 in 2017, prompting Scott to call for a special session in the summer of that year to address its implementation.

The Florida State Legislature then passed Senate Bill 8A, which established regulations for the amendment. These included a cap on the number of retail dispensaries, as well as a ban on smoking medical marijuana—though cannabis in spray, oil or vapor form was allowed.

Orlando attorney John Morgan filed a lawsuit to challenge the smoking ban, which a Leon County circuit court judge ruled in favor of in May 2018. The Florida Health Department appealed the ruling, which is the subject of DeSantis' request.

"What the Florida legislature has done to implement the people's will has not been done in accordance with what the amendment advised," said DeSantis at the January 17 announcement. "Whether patients have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge that? I want people to be able to having their suffering relieved. I don't think this law is up to snuff."

DeSantis also plans to remove regulations and drop appeals in several other cases involving licensing for medical marijuana companies to grow, manufacture and sell their own product. 

"We have a lot of fish to fry in Florida," he said. "The last thing I want to be doing is cleaning up something that should have been done two years ago. I don't want to continue fighting some of these old battles."

In an interview after the press conference, John Morgan called the governor's decision a "victory for the people of Florida. This plant was put into nature by God for us, and it works."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.