Florida’s full Senate on Thursday passed a bill to repeal the state’s ban on smokeable medical marijuana.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 182 by a vote of 34 to 4, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The measure would allow medical marijuana patients to smoke marijuana, which was legalized by voters before being prohibited by lawmakers.
“Marijuana is now medicine in the state of Florida and how that medicine is administered should be between their doctor and that patient,” said Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point.
As noted by the Sentinel, lawmakers in 2017 passed a law carrying out the legalization of medical marijuana approved by 71 percent of voters in 2016, but it barred patients from access to smokable marijuana, restricting them to oils and baked goods.
Advocates for the amendment including Orlando attorney John Morgan sued, and a lower court ruled last year the smoking ban was unconstitutional. After taking office in January, DeSantis told lawmakers he would drop the appeal of that decision, made by his predecessor Rick Scott, if they didn’t pass a new law by March 15.
A spokeswoman for DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sen. Rob Bradley, who sponsored the previous law banning smoking, defended the earlier position but said it was “time to move on.”
“We did what we thought was right for the health of the people of the state of Florida,” said Bradley, R-Fleming Island. “It’s time to move this discussion from Tallahassee to doctors’ offices around the state.”
Not all senators embraced the change. Sen. Keith Perry, who voted no, said smoking the drug isn’t healthy for any patient.
“Just think about why we’re even debating smoking marijuana – I can only figure it’s because that’s the way it’s been used illegally forever,” said Perry, R-Gainesville, who voted against the measure. “When you burn that and inhale it, it causes cancer.”
The other three no votes came from Sens. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, George Gainer, R-Panama City, and Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater.
Some senators who weren’t convinced allowing patients to smoke marijuana was the right policy still voted for it because they feared lax regulations that would result if they didn’t act.
Other parts of the bill include $1.5 million a year for research, a parental notice requirement for patients under 18 to receive smokable medicine and requiring doctors to tell patients under 18 the negative effects of smoking marijuana.
Sen. Kelli Stargel said she didn’t support the original amendment allowing medical marijuana to begin with, but noted without a law to replace the old one, the court’s decision would stand on its own without new parameters for doctors, patients, growers and retailers.
“I believe it’s a gateway drug just like the opioid addictions we had that led to the use of heroin and fentanyl,” Stargel said. “Now we’re in a situation where if we do nothing the situation’s worse. We have basically little regulation.”
The House version of the bill is stricter than the Senate plan, including a complete ban on smokable marijuana for patients under 18.
But Senate bill sponsor Jeff Brandes, R-Clearwater, said he expects the House to pass the Senate’s version unchanged, sending it to DeSantis next week before the March 15 deadline.
Even then, Sen. Tom Lee sounded a warning about the “unintended consequences” of the bill. He cited concerns over workplace policies banning marijuana use coming into conflict with employees who use the medication.
“We’re not even close to done here,” said Lee, R-Thonotosassa. “I’ve watched this Senate and the House pass bill after bill over 22 years. I’ve watched the celebration and the victory lap and then I’ve watched us have to deal with the unintended consequences of what we did.”
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