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Florida Democrats Aim To Undo Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban

Florida Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to overturn a medical marijuana smoking ban which is already being challenged in the courts.

Adam Drury

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Florida Democrats Aim To Undo Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban

States that were hesitant to legalize medical marijuana use have typically adopted a “no smoking” policy toward the medicine itself. Bans against smoking medical cannabis mainly stem from public health concerns and the conventional wisdom that smoking just isn’t healthy. But Democratic lawmakers in Florida filed a motion Thursday to undo the state’s medical marijuana smoking ban. Their efforts come in the middle of a pending lawsuit against the ban, in hopes of resolving the dispute.

Amid Pending Lawsuit, Florida Dems Challenge Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban

Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical cannabis on November 8, 2016.

The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or “Amendment 2,” obtained a super-majority of votes. More than 70 percent of voters approved the measure.

But the amendment’s implementation has drawn criticism from its proponents. They argue that the medical marijuana smoking ban flies in the face of the amendment’s original intent.

Ultimately, that criticism culminated in a legal challenge. Orlando attorney and possible 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Morgan filed a lawsuit against the ban in early July of 2017.

While Florida voters could say yes or no to legalizing medical cannabis, it was up to state legislators to actually implement the program.

However, conservative lawmakers in Tallahassee had little interest in legal weed and began mangling the medical marijuana amendment.

Morgan, a long-time sponsor of Amendment 2, which he’d come to identify with as “his” amendment, accused his political rivals of interpreting the language of the bill as narrowly as possible.

The resulting medical marijuana smoking ban, Morgan argued, was a violation of voters’ intent.

Morgan, who spearheaded and financed the campaign that ultimately led Amendment 2’s approval, says that medical access to cannabis is a constitutional right. And the medical marijuana smoking ban violates that right and is therefore unenforceable, the lawsuit claims.

Medical Marijuana Smoking Ban Violates Patients’ Constitutional Rights

John Morgan and his head lawyer in the lawsuit, Jon Mills, accuse the Florida legislature of making medical judgments they aren’t qualified to make.

“By redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use’ to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of ‘a licensed Florida physician’ and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process,” the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, Florida Senate Democrats are trying to overturn the smoking ban through legislative means.

Starting in the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January, lawmakers will consider Sen. Gary Farmer’s bill, SB 726, which would overturn the ban on smoking herbal preparations of medical cannabis. Farmer introduced the bill on Thursday.

Despite Republican opposition to the inhalation of medical cannabis, the current amendment does allow patients to inhale vaporized cannabis extracts and concentrates.

But backers of Amendment 2 say no method of cannabis consumption should be prohibited.

And Farmer, in a prepared statement, said:

“An overwhelming majority of voters ratified Amendment 2, and its intent could not be more clear: to allow for the use of medical marijuana, including smoking.”

For his part, Republican House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues has vowed to keep the medical marijuana smoking ban in place.

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