TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's ban on the use of smokable medical marijuana by eligible patients ended Monday when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill repealing it.
The Republican governor's signature on the first legislative bill he has approved since taking office in January was a top priority. DeSantis also announced the state is dropping its previous appeal of court rulings that also could have ended the ban without state lawmakers' input.
The governor noted in a statement that more than 70 percent of voters approved medical marijuana in a 2016 constitutional amendment and said it was time to end the ban on smokable forms of the plant. That ban was enacted in 2017 and signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott, leading to court rulings that the ban was unconstitutional.
"Now that we have honored our duty to find a legislative solution, I have honored my commitment and filed a joint motion to dismiss the state's appeal and to vacate the lower court decision which had held the prior law to be unconstitutional," DeSantis said.
"I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld," he added.
DeSantis gave lawmakers a mid-March deadline to act on repealing the ban, which lawmakers did in swift fashion so that a variety of restrictions on smoking medical marijuana could be put in place. Otherwise, a court decision ending the ban could have left Florida with few limitations on smoking.
Under the new law, smoking medical marijuana would not be available to anyone under 18 unless the patient is terminally ill and if two doctors, one of them a pediatrician, say it is the most effective form of treatment. It could not be smoked in public or at private businesses subject to the state's cigarette smoking ban.
Private property owners would have the right to prohibit it and patients wouldn't be able to possess more than 4 ounces of marijuana in a smokable form.
The repeal of the smoking ban had broad bipartisan support. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, called the new law a "landmark victory" for medical marijuana patients and for democracy as a whole. The ban and other cannabis-related issues were cornerstones of Fried's 2018 campaign.
"It's a triumph owed to the relentless advocacy of Floridians who refused to be silenced," Fried said in a statement. "Our state must not disregard the voice of its people — when the people's will is nullified by those with authority, liberty cannot survive."
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FILE- In this March 5, 2019 file photo, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis gives his state of the state address on the first day of the legislative session in Tallahassee, Fla. De Santis has pushed for a repeal to Florida's ban on smokable medical marijuana. The Senate passed a bill Thursday, March 7, 2019, that repeals the ban, and now the House takes up that legislation Wednesday. It's the first major action by lawmakers this year, largely because DeSantis gave them a mid-March deadline to get it done. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)