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Deadline To Allow Patients To Smoke Medical Marijuana Nearing

Charles LeBlanc

The deadline is nearing for the Florida Legislature to put a bill allowing patients to smoke medical marijuana on the Governor’s desk. Both chambers have been moving quickly to finish in time, but still are not in agreement with one another. Now both sides are expecting to file other bills to address the things they can’t come to agreement on before time runs out.

During a mid-January press conference, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis gave the legislature an ultimatum. 

“So what I’m announcing today is the lawsuit that’s challenging the smoking ban, we're going to be filing a stay of decision on that, ‘til mid-March. Because afterall I served in the Congress I want to have the elected representatives write the law in a way that the people intended. So we will give them a couple weeks into session to address the smoking issue,” he said.

With less than a month left, lawmakers have been working to give the governor and voters what they’ve asked for.

In the Senate, Rep. Jeff Brandes (R-St.Petersburg) has a bill that allows patients to purchase the marijuana flower directly from treatment centers. But the house's version restricts patients to buying their smokable marijuana in pre-rolled cigarettes.

Cannabis Attorney Michael Minardi expects that to cause problems if it becomes law.

“I don’t know if that’s going to pass, it passed the committee. With regards to it, I think it’s going to continue to cause problems, it’s going to continue to push people to the black market,” said cannais attorney Michael Minardi. “The ironic thing is they said, okay yeah you have to do this but if people take it home whatever they do with it at their home doesn’t matter to us. So then what’s the point?”

Rep. Carlos Smith (D-Orlando) says the bill isn’t ideal but understands it does get the job done.

“I look forward to working with everyone this session to address other issues that aren’t directly related to the smoking of medical cannabis in a way that will address affordability and some of the other concerns that have been brought up,” he said.

Those other concerns include the state’s medical marijuana system, which allows companies to control growing, farming, distributing and selling the drug. DeSantis calls it a cartel.

“I look at how some of this was created where they created a cartel essentially, don’t know that the amendment necessarily prohibits that but that is not good policy. So I would like them to address that as well. Both leaders of the legislature say they’re going to do it, but if they don’t we have the ability to dismiss this lawsuit as the sword of Damocles hanging over their head.”

Sen. Gary Farmer Jr. (D. Fort Lauderdale), recently attempted to fix other issues with three amendments to the chamber’s proposal.

One would have allowed former or active members of the military to receive free medical marijuana ID cards. Another would protect those who wish to use medical marijuana from being disqualified from receiving certain medical treatments, while another focused on the workplace.

“Many employers have mandatory drug screening that they have their employees go through. And many employees have been terminated because they failed a drug test even though they were a legal medical marijuana card holder,” said Farmer.

Farmer’s proposal would place medical marijuana on the Drug-Free Workplace Act, meaning employers would no longer be able to penalize employees who test for marijuana and are a qualified patient.

None of those other issues come with a deadline.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.