The fight to consume medical marijuana in Florida in all product categories has been a long and drawn-out legal battle. Residents of Florida with qualifying health conditions wanted the freedom to choose the cannabis product that best suited their needs. Unfortunately, the right to smoke medical marijuana in Florida was not that easy to gain.
The Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative allowed residents of Florida to vote on whether medical cannabis should be provided to residents and seasonal residents. In November of 2016, 72% of residents voted on the initiative, also known as Amendment 2. When Florida residents voted on the initiative, they assumed that would mean all types of medical marijuana would be available for patient use, including smokable “cannabis flower” and edibles.
When Amendment 2 was implemented in 2017, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) moved to ban all smokable forms of medical cannabis. It was legal to procure medical marijuana for residents and seasonal residents in Florida with qualifying health conditions. However, the DOH banned all other forms of medical marijuana with the exception of vape oils, capsules, and topical creams.
The language of Amendment 2 was changed to enact a ban on the other types of products, including smokable marijuana and edibles. This was done after Florida voters had already approved Amendment 2. The legislative language did not include any product category bans.
In May of 2018, State Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled in favor of allowing smokable medical cannabis as an option for patients in Florida. The ban, Judge Gievers determined, was “unconstitutionally inconsistent with voters’ intent.”
The legal battle heated up again. The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, appealed the ruling of Judge Gievers within 10 minutes of the announced decision. Scott took the fight to the appeals court in Tallahassee. Unfortunately, by January 2019, Governor Scott was not re-elected and the appeal was not heard in court.
One of the first actions of the new Governor, Ron DeSantis, was to drop the appeal. He petitioned the Florida State Legislature to remove the restrictions in Amendment 2. In March of 2019, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 182 into law. This bill lifted the marijuana smoking ban.
Medical marijuana patients in Florida may now choose to purchase “smokable flower” as one of their cannabis therapeutic options at licensed dispensaries.
The ability to vape cannabinoids has been legalized since Amendment 2 was first enacted. If you are wondering why vaping was permitted, but “smokable flower” cannabis was not, it has a lot to do with lung health and respiratory concerns.
Interestingly, vaping medical cannabis received no objections while Governor Rick Scott was in office. There was a significant bias against “smokable flower” with supporting concerns about the health risks of smoking cannabis. That is, compared to other methods, like edibles, tinctures, or capsules.
At the time, vaping was considered to be safer than smoking medical marijuana that was paper rolled or consumed with a pipe. However, any solvents or carrier fluids in vape carts can also present health risks. Particularly for patients who suffer from respiratory disorders like emphysema, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, or pneumonia.
All cannabis inhalation methods do result in some residue which creates the potential for respiratory inflammation. Many physicians recommend minimal use of smokable marijuana or vapes for that reason. Ultimately, the patient has the freedom of choice to choose a product and consumption method that they prefer. And for many, that preference is for smokable medical marijuana flower.
The State of Florida allows dispensaries to produce their own low-THC cannabis within extremely strict guidelines. Dispensaries cannot purchase cannabis through a supply chain. This may sound difficult for dispensaries, but it is an important step that Florida has taken to reduce risks and crime.
If medical marijuana treatment centers could purchase products from anywhere, it would be impossible for the State of Florida to ensure the quality of products being sold to patients. Limiting dispensaries to their own low-THC cannabis allows for important quality and safety controls on cultivation. These include inspections and testing of the cannabis products.
Many dispensaries do provide “smokable flower” to medical marijuana cardholders. However, the amount of inventory available can vary. Some strains are extremely popular and dispensaries may have difficulties keeping up with consumer interest. Many dispensaries have expanded their secure cultivation facilities to keep up with growing demand.
The State of Florida has mandated that smoke from cigarettes and combustible marijuana poses a health threat to the public. Second-hand smoke can easily pass from a patient to an unlicensed bystander. To prevent this from occurring, medical marijuana can only be smoked at home.
Many recreational areas, like Disney World, have banned all forms of medical marijuana. It also cannot be consumed on federal property, as that would be a felony offense. This includes National Parks and government offices, such as the Post Office. While medical marijuana is legalized for certified MMJ cardholders, it is still categorized as a controlled substance and Schedule I drug by the Federal Government. Charges include fines and possible jail time for first-time offenders.
Enjoy the experience of “smokable flower” as part of your therapeutic medical marijuana treatments. Just be aware of the laws regarding where you can consume your cannabis to avoid legal problems.
This article was originally published on Fluent.