TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Rallying outside the state Capitol Wednesday, activists demanded that Gov. Rick Scott drop the state's appeal of a ruling striking down the medical marijuana smoking ban passed last year by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and signed into law by Scott.

  • Advocates demand Gov. Scott take action
  • Want him to drop appeal of ruling striking down smoking ban
  • Patient advocate says smoking marijuana is most effective 

The governor has said it's imperative to "follow the law," referring to the now-invalidated smoking ban, and Attorney General Pam Bondi has similarly expressed little interest in withdrawing the appeal, which will be heard by the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

But the activists at Wednesday's gathering said state leaders were disrespecting the will of the 71 percent of Florida voters who approved Amendment 2, to legalize medical marijuana, in 2016.

"It's 2018, right? Yeah. We're way over it, man," bemoaned Mike Krehl, who arrived at the rally with an empty wheelchair to underscore what he said are the life-and-death consequences of the smoking ban.

"We've got a world that's changed significantly. We're there, 71.3 percent are there. Where's the Capitol?" he asked.

The Capitol, as Krehl refers to a state government dominated by conservatives, has been taking a cautious approach to implementing Amendment 2.

"We do this in a way that honors the letter of the amendment, the spirit of the amendment, but also exists within the confines of federal law, which is a paradox, because this is a Schedule One substance that is illegal," said Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers), one of the architects of the smoking ban.

In passing the ban, some Republicans argued it would help prevent use of marijuana by non-patients. Others expressed concern about complicity in a de facto governmental endorsement of smoking in the absence of a ban.

But smoking marijuana, patient advocates say, is the most effective means of delivering the drug's therapeutic benefits to the body. And they warn the state's continuing refusal to allow it will cost lives.

"This wheelchair is empty with the exception of this sign," Krehl said. "It would be a bloody shame to have thousands of these empty wheelchairs rolling in on the Capitol with no voices to speak out of them because they're all dead, because they couldn't get compassion from our government."