Sen. Brandes says there’s a 50-50 chance of lawmakers meeting governor’s deadline to repeal smoking ban

by | Feb 7, 2019

A state senator who is leading efforts to repeal Florida’s smoking ban on medical marijuana believes there is a 50-50 chance, at best, that the Legislature will reach an agreement to repeal the ban as Gov. Ron DeSantis called for last month.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, suggested Thursday that failure to lift the smoking ban without placing additional requirements could lead to the first showdown between the new governor and legislative leaders that could set the tone for future relations between them.

“I think the governor has explicitly told the Legislature what he intends to do and I think they should 100  percent expect him to keep his word and do it,” Brandes said. “I think that will motivate them and I think it will guide the Legislature in future decision-making as it relates to a governor who has put his cards on the table.”

DeSantis announced last month that he would give lawmakers until March 15 to come up with a plan to repeal the smoking ban that the Legislature passed last year implementing the medical marijuana amendment. The governor says the ban defies the will of the voters who overwhelmingly adopted the measure.

If legislators don’t meet the March 15 deadline, DeSantis has vowed to drop the state’s appeal of a court decision that ruled the ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional.

“I don’t believe the governor is bluffing,” Brandes said.

The Florida House has expressed reluctance for a total lifting of the smoking ban. House Speaker José Oliva has raised concern about the health effects smoking could have on patients and worries that lifting the ban would amount to what could be seen as the authorization of marijuana for recreational use.

Orlando attorney John Morgan, who led the drive to pass Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment in 2016, says Florida lawmakers need to take a closer look at the benefits the program is providing to the lives of patients with various medical conditions.

“I urge all legislators to drop into these (medical marijuana) dispensaries and see for yourself.,” Morgan said Thursday in a Twitter post.

“So much good is being done for so many,” he added. ”People who want to smoke recreational marijuana can find it much cheaper at any high school in Florida.”

The plan being proposed by the House would require doctors who wish to prescribe the smoking of medical marijuana for their patients to first obtain approval from a special review panel. Critics argue it adds another layer of bureaucracy that adds additional costs and time to the process and further violates the intent of the voters who supported the amendment.

The Senate proposal to lift the smoking ban would require the agreement of two doctors before a patient could be authorized to smoke the medical marijuana.

“I’m 50-50 that the Legislature will pass anything,” Brandes said. “Neither one, neither the House or the Senate, in my opinion, meets the constitutional requirement to allow smokeables today.”

That would leave it up to DeSantis to decide whether to follow through on his word to drop the state’s appeal of the court ruling that the smoking ban is unconstitutional if the Legislature failed to reach agreement on a repeal.

“I fully expect the governor to keep his word to withdraw from the lawsuit,” Brandes added. “I think that, potentially, that might be the best thing that could possibly happen. I think that would bring a sober mind to everybody and bring everybody to the table to negotiate in good faith.”



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