Smokable medical marijuana is legal in Florida, but the wheels of government move slowly
Cannabis "It changed my life". Listen to one buyer's feeling towards cannabis and how it works for her. Andrea Melendez, Fort Myers News-Press
One day after Gov. Ron DeSantis formally lifted a ban on smokable medical marijuana, the shops planning to sell it continued to wait for formal approval to do so.
At a Sarasota dispensary owned by Trulieve, which was expected Tuesday to make the first sales in Florida, patients hoping to buy smokable cannabis flower left empty-handed.
Annie McDermott, 42, who suffers from fibromyalgia and other illnesses, uses cannabis to treat chronic pain. McDermott, of Venice, had previously been prescribed opioid painkiller that, she said, led to a 10-year addiction and increasing dependence.
For her legal medical marijuana, she has been consuming it with a vaporizing device, similar to an e-cigarette, that was already legal under Florida law. But, she said, it has been a ridiculous restriction.
“It’s nonsense, utter nonsense, that I have to spend a fortune on a vape that burns my throat when I can easily just roll up a joint and be perfectly fine," McDermott said.
More than 71 percent of Florida voters supported a constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana in the state. Despite that, Gov. Rick Scott and other state GOP lawmakers pushed through restrictions on how it may be consumed.
That led to a high-profile legal effort to reverse that action.
DeSantis, also a Republican, signaled shortly after his election that he would lift the ban. He has also moved to dismiss the legal case.
John Morgan, the Orlando attorney who largely bankrolled the 2016 legalization effort and called on the state to lift the smoking ban "tweeted last week: "We did it! Thank you for sticking with me, thank you for voting, and I want to thank @GovRonDeSantis for believing in the will of the people!"
Though Florida lawmakers have now effectively reversed that ban, the state Department of Health oversees the sales of any such products and must approve the procedures for doing so.
That had been expected to happen Tuesday morning but had not as of early Tuesday night.
Kim Rivers, the CEO of Trulieve, did not elaborate on the delay, saying only that the company is “anxiously awaiting” approval.
Rivers said that, once it happens, smokable cannabis will likely become a significant part of her business. She said data from other states shows that smokable products make up 40 percent to 60 percent of sales.
“It’s early to tell how the market is going to shake out,” Rivers said. “But we do know for sure that there are patients who have a very strong preference for a natural type product.”
Follow this reporter on Twitter: @FrankGluck
A look at how to get a medical marijuana card in Florida. Additional information can be found at floridahealth.gov.