Medical Marijuana: To Smoke or Not To Smoke?

Jan 31, 2019


Whether Florida lawmakers will do away with the state’s prohibition against smoking medical marijuana remains up in the air, despite an ultimatum issued by Governor Ron DeSantis. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports

Saying they failed to heed the will of the voters, DeSantis is ordering lawmakers to eliminate a ban on smokable medical marijuana. If they don’t comply, the Governor is threatening to drop the state’s appeal of a court ruling that found the prohibition violated a 2016 constitutional amendment.

“Everyone knew what that amendment meant; it was very clear there was overwhelming support for it,” said the Governor. “And so, we’ve just got to enact the statute that is going to pass constitutional muster; and I think what they did before was below the threshold that the voters put in terms of what they wanted to see.”

The amendment, approved by more than 71 percent of voters, legalized medical marijuana for patients with a broad swath of debilitating conditions, such as cancer and glaucoma. DeSantis is among the many critics of the smoking ban who believe voters thought the amendment would allow smoking.

“Some of the things I criticized, [such as] the way they did the organization, as a free-market guy it wasn’t I necessarily something I like,” DeSantis said. “You probably could do a lot of different approaches and it still be constitutional. I thought that restricting and not allowing anyone who was prescribed by doctors to smoke it – to me I thought that ran afoul of the amendment and I think that needs to be corrected.”

Addressing reporters Wednesday during an Associated Press pre-legislative session gathering, House Speaker José Oliva raised doubts about whether the governor will get his way.

Jose Oliva, Florida House Speaker.

“We have a responsibility as a legislature that if there’s going to be a medicine – grown, sold, and taken – that we can know and doctors can know, what is the dosage that one has taken?” said Oliva. “The fact that it is an illegal drug federally has given some pause to our major universities to study it in a way that needs to be studied.”

The Speaker expressed concern that allowing patients to smoke the marijuana as treatment amounts to a de facto authorization of marijuana for recreational use.

“The discussion that is being had now is, basically, we want recreational marijuana, Oliva said. “We want to call it medicine, because if you call it medicine we have some cover, so that’s what we would like.”

While Oliva -- a Miami Lakes Republican whose fortune is built on a cigar company -- agrees that marijuana delivered in non-smokable forms can be a valuable form of treatment, he draws the line at some potential smokers.

“Is one to believe that an eight-year-old child should be smoking marijuana and inhaling smoke into their lungs?” asked Oliva. “I’ve been in the smoke business my entire life and I’ve never heard anyone say it’s good for you.”

House leadership – including Oliva -- would like to have something on the governor’s desk by the March 15 deadline. Meanwhile, the Senate Health Policy Committee on Monday is taking up a bill -- SB 182 -- that would strip the smoking ban out of the state’s medical marijuana laws.