OUR VIEW: Newly elected Gov. Ron DeSantis continued to lay out a refreshing, new path when he announced support for measures that would finally bring smokable marijuana into the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
It was an abrupt split with the policies of his predecessor and fellow Republican, Rick Scott, now Florida’s junior senator.
In addition, the fact that DeSantis announced his intentions with attorney John Morgan at his side was a signal of bipartisanship. Morgan, who led the crusade for a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana, had once floated the possibility of race for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Politics aside, DeSantis simply did the right thing. By abandoning the regressive polices of Scott and the previous Legislature, he is honoring the obvious wishes of Florida voters and signaling respect for doctor-patient relationships in health care.
An overwhelming 71 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment to permit marijuana to be sold to people with debilitating diseases, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder. The amendment was rightfully assumed to include the common form of marijuana that could be smoked.
The Legislature refused. Despite protests from Morgan, et al., they carved out smokable marijuana and allowed only only prescriptions in pill, oil, edible and vape form. Smoking marijuana remained illegal, even for those with a doctor’s prescription.
The 2017 enabling legislation signed by Scott also restrained trade of a legitimate industry by capping the number of medical-marijuana licenses and dispensaries in the state.
When proponents sued, the Scott administration went a step further and appealed court judgments that held the restrictions unconstitutional. It was a bogus argument that clearly contradicted voter intent.
DeSantis said just that at a press conference flanked by Morgan and Republican leaders.
“What the Florida Legislature has done to implement the people’s will has not been done in accordance with what the amendment envisioned,” DeSantis said.
He futher also sent a message that was both compassionate and libertarian:
“Whether they (patients) have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge that? I want people to be able to have their suffering relieved. I don’t think this law is up to snuff.”
Specifically, DeSantis said he would simply drop the state’s lawsuit and end the misguided ban if the new Legislature failed to authorize smokable marijuana. He also called for an end to restrictions to vertical integration of the marijuana industry. By greatly limiting the number of growers and dispensaries in the state, the law overly restricted the fair, efficient marketing of a legal product, one appropriately left to the discretion of physicians and qualified patients in need of pain relief.
This is a welcome turn of events—again, one that signals the new governor’s willingness to quickly shift from policies that contradict the clear will of 71 percent of the voting public.
For doctors, patients and families dealing with illness and hoping for an alternative to opioid pain relief—as well as a state struggling with the devastating impact of opioid addiction—this was a sensible, compassionate step.
We are confident the Legislature will get in step with DeSantis and act quickly to end the medical marijuana restrictions. As they should.