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Gov. Ron DeSantis Says Smokeable Medical Marijuana Could Come In March

Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference in Winter Park in January announced a change in the state's approach to smokable medical marijuana. Photo: Christian Simmons, WMFE
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that he will drop a challenge to smoking medical marijuana if the Legislature doesn't rewrite the law next March. (Christian Simmons)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing sweeping changes to the state’s medical marijuana system - including an end to the ban on smoking medical marijuana.

Currently, 19 separate lawsuits challenge how the Florida Legislature implemented Amendment 2, which expanded access to medical marijuana. More than 70 percent of Florida voters approved the amendment in 2016.

DeSantis is giving the Florida Legislature a March 15 deadline to make changes, or he will stop defending the ban on smoking in court. He also reserved the right to drop other high profile lawsuits, which include bans on growing your own medical marijuana and caps on the number of growers.

“I think that’s good incentive for the Legislature to get this right," DeSantis said. "And if they’re not able to do it, then we’ll have to try and bring this to a conclusion. Look, we got a lot of fish to fry in Florida. The last thing I want to be doing is cleaning up for something that should have happened two years ago.”

Orlando Attorney John Morgan, who filed the lawsuit challenging the ban on smoking medical marijuana, stood next to the governor at the Winter Park press conference. He said there was no question that the amendment would allow for smoking medical marijuana.

"Everybody except Rick Scott understood that," Morgan said. "And now we have a governor who is enlightened, who is educated, and most importantly believes the will of the people, not the will of special interests, should carry the day. And that's what happened today."

The governor also criticized Florida's vertical integration system. Anyone who gets a license in Florida has to grow, process, distribute and sell medical marijuana.

“I look at how some of this was created where they created a cartel essentially, I don’t know that the amendment necessarily prohibits that, but that is not good policy," DeSantis said. "So I’d like them to address that as well.”

Congressman Matt Gaetz, who served on the governor's transition team, helped write the vertical integration law. He said that law can no longer be defended.

"We wrote the legislation that way not because it was necessarily best for patients, but it's because that's how we had to do it to get the votes," Gaetz said. "And so I'm grateful we've got leadership in the DeSantis-Nunez administration that really for the first time is gonna put the patients and the will of the people first."