Ban on smokable marijuana has been overturned

On Wednesday, March 13, the Florida Legislature overwhelmingly voted to overturn a ban on the use of smokable marijuana. In November 2016, Florida voters had approved a constitutional amendment to allow the use of medical marijuana. This vote could have been won only by a super-majority, and it was, but the Legislature at that time banned the use of the smokable form. In May 2018, however, Judge Karen Gievers of Leon County Circuit Court ruled that the ban on smoking marijuana for medical purposes was unconstitutional, and a lawsuit was launched in an attempt to lift the ban.

When Gov. Ron DeSantis took office, he told the Legislature he wanted them to fix the laws pertaining to medical marijuana and gave them a deadline of March 15. He said 70 percent of Florida voters voted to allow sick people to use it, and it is not anyone’s place to judge. On his Twitter account he said, “Here in Florida, we must have a pathway for those who have a medical need to smoke marijuana to do so!”

At this time, marijuana can be used in any form except smokable in the State of Florida as long as the user has a physician’s approval, but after the recent vote, this will change. Patients using medical marijuana will be allowed to purchase supplies and up to 2.5 ounces of smokable marijuana every 35 days at a dispensary. Only adults will be legally allowed to use the smokable form unless a pediatrician grants permission to a terminally ill pediatric patient. Patients will be allowed to smoke only in private.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), as of March 2019, “a total of 34 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have approved a comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis programs.” They define comprehensive as the following:

• Protection from criminal penalties for using marijuana for a medical purpose;

• Access to marijuana through home cultivation, dispensaries or some other system that is likely to be implemented;

• It allows a variety of strains or products, including those with more than “low THC”; and

• It allows either smoking or vaporization of some kinds of marijuana products, plant material or extract, and

• Is not a limited trial program.

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, but according to the NCSL, the Obama administration sent a memo to federal prosecutors requesting that they not prosecute anyone distributing medical marijuana as long as they are doing so in accordance with state law.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a report in 2017 stating that they found substantial evidence cannabis had therapeutic benefits in some patients. It helped with nausea and vomiting and with pain management and as an anti-spasmodic.

However, the report stated that long-term cannabis smoking contributed to a worsening of respiratory symptoms and chronic bronchitis. There was also concern about the use of cannabis before driving.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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