WINTER PARK, Fla. — Florida will no longer fight efforts to allow medical marijuana to be smoked in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.
- DeSantis: Legislature has until mid-March to deal with issues
- If the legislature doesn't act, state will drop opposition to lawsuits
- Lawsuits regard smokable medical marijuana, licenses for companies
- FLORIDA GOVERNMENT GUIDE: Latest News, Find Your Lawmakers, Learn How Your State Government Works
DeSantis made the announcement at Kraft Azalea Garden in Winter Park.
"Whether they have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge that?" DeSantis said. "I want people to be able to have their suffering relieved."
DeSantis said he will table an appeal in the main lawsuit against the ban on smokable medical marijuana to give the state legislature time to address the issue in March.
If the legislature does not, DeSantis said the state will drop the appeal to the lawsuit.
“I want to have the elected representatives write the laws in the way people intended, so we’ll give them a couple of weeks in session to address smoking issue and if they don’t do it, we’re going to dismiss the case and move on," DeSantis said.
Florida voters added medical marijuana to the Florida Constitution in 2016 by a 71 percent vote. The state legislature, however, would not allow smokable medical marijuana as an option for patients, even though the amendment did not ban it as an option.
The state was sued by patients who said smoking the drug was the only way it brought them relief, and a Florida judge ruled against the state.
Gov. Rick Scott's administration appealed that decision.
Attorney John Morgan, who bankrolled the medical marijuana amendment and also took the state to court over smokable medical marijuana, said he was impressed with DeSantis' decisions so far.
"Since this governor has been elected, I have been incredibly encouraged," Morgan said.
"I look at how some of this was created, where they created a cartel, essentially," DeSantis said. "I don't know that the amendment necessarily prohibits that, but that is not good policy, so I would like (the legislature) to address that as well."
The statement was in reference to the system in place for how medical cannabis is cultivated and dispensed, with few companies having access to licenses.
"The way (the legislature) did this vertical integration is not free-market principles for sure, so I would rather it be opened up," DeSantis said.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a close DeSantis ally through the gubernatorial campaign, was with the governor for the announcement. He said he wrote many of the laws implementing medical marijuana in Florida when he was with the state legislature, but he admits now they need to be changed.
"I wrote the original vertical integration bill, and it is not worthy of continued defense," Gaetz said. "We wrote the legislation that way, not necessarily because it was best for patients, but because that's how we had to do it to get the votes."
DeSantis said both legislative leaders say they will address the issues, but threatening to drop the lawsuits was a "sword of Damocles" hanging over their heads.
"A legislative solution has always been my preferred course of action, and we will certainly honor the governor’s request to bring a bill forward," Florida Senate President Bill Galvano said in a statement.
Spectrum News reporter Greg Angel contributed to this article.