When Florida lawmakers begin their annual legislative session next week, one of the first items on their to-do list will be passing a bill to allow sick Floridians access to smokable medical marijuana.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis says he has given Republican legislative leaders some “broad strokes” on how to meet his March 15 deadline for resolving the smokable pot issue. But he says he is leaving the details to lawmakers as long as they comply with the 2016 medical-marijuana Florida Constitutional Amendment that more than 71 percent of voters approved.
“Look, what I told them is, to me it’s less a policy issue than a constitutional issue. The Legislature fell short in implementing that amendment,” DeSantis said. “I know that there are some (legal) appeals pending. But I would rather just get it right.
“I’m willing to sign (legislation) if I can have good faith that it’s implementing the will of the voters in a fair way. It may not mean I agree philosophically on every little nook and cranny. But we’ve got to meet the constitutional threshold,” he said.
The Florida House and Senate are poised to take up smokable pot bills in the first week of the 2019 session.
There are some differences in the bills that will have to be worked out. The House bill (HB 7015) allows adults to use smokable marijuana, but it prohibits the dispensaries from selling other whole-flower products. The House bill also bans children from smoking.
The Senate bill (SB 182) would require marijuana dispensaries to sell at least one type of pre-rolled, filter-less cigarettes and allow them to sell other whole-flower products. It would allow sick children to smoke if approved by a second opinion from a pediatrician.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who recently appointed the state’s first cannabis director, says she supports the legislation with the “least amount of restrictions.”
She says every day that sick Floridians are denied access to whole-flower products means “they are suffering.” She also says decisions on whether sick children should smoke should be left to the “doctor-patient relationship.”
Fried, the only statewide-elected Democrat, explained her position in a recent opinion piece distributed to Florida newspapers.
“The 2016 amendment didn’t limit the forms of medical marijuana available to patients, or call for anyone other than doctors to make medical decisions. But what it did call for is a constitutionally guaranteed right to access medical marijuana ‘as determined by a licensed Florida physician’ — not as determined by Tallahassee politicians,” Fried wrote.
“We don’t see this kind of interference when doctors prescribe cholesterol drugs, antidepressants, opioids, cancer-fighting medicines, or erectile dysfunction aids. That’s because people inherently understand that a patient’s course of treatment is a decision that belongs between a doctor and that patient,” she wrote.
“Every patient is different, every human body is different, and every person responds differently to medical treatment. For many patients, the best method is smoking the natural flower, just as their doctor ordered,” she wrote.