Medical Cannabis Smoking Ban Lifted In Florida

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In a surprisingly one-sided vote, state lawmakers passed a landmark bill last week that effectively ends Florida’s statewide ban on smoking medical cannabis.

At the end of 2018, I wrote about the potential changes Florida Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis could initiate when taking office January 8th of this year. The Governor, both before and after assuming leadership, made statements regarding his intention to reduce state spending on cannabis-focused court cases and his desire to implement the will of the populace as it relates to medical cannabis. As could be expected, DeSantis’ publicized goals were well received by a large majority of Florida voters, more than 70% of whom reported strong support for medical cannabis’ legalization following the 2016 amendment.

Interestingly enough, DeSantis’ team were not required to fight as hard as they seemed prepared to; just three months into the Governor's new term, both the Florida House and the Senate passed Bill SB 182 to repeal the ban placed on smokable cannabis. In fact, the Senate showed unanimous support for the bill, passing it with a vote of 38-0.

What Does This Really Mean?

This ban repeal means that verified medical cannabis patients in Florida will finally be able to smoke the plant form of cannabis. Properly licensed physicians like myself will now be capable of ordering medications in larger quantities, meaning that Florida patients are now uniquely positioned to start worrying less about the frequency and cost of their cannabis-related doctor visits.

Certain conditions apply, of course, when it comes the newly-legal smoking of medical cannabis. For starters, paraphernalia common of marijuana hobbyisms  such as blunt and tobacco paper remains outside the realm of permissible tools. Furthermore, only minors suffering from terminal diseases will be allowed to inhale medical cannabis, and only with prescribed permission from their physician and pediatrician.

Additionally, and more importantly from a medical standpoint, we now have to address the risks and drawbacks versus benefits of smoking the cannabis flower as a medical therapy.

Inhalation of Combusted Medical Cannabis

As with all forms of medication, determining whether inhalation of medical cannabis smoke is appropriately beneficial depends entirely upon the individual needs and characteristics of each patient. Unfortunately, limited research is available about the effects of the different modes of cannabis treatment. However, as early as 2012, researchers from the Center for Medical Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego; the Psychiatry Service at the VA San Diego Healthcare System; and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of California, Davis conducted a thorough review of past clinical studies that investigate the efficacy and safety of cannabinoids for treatment of pain, spasticity and other conditions. Called “Medical Marijuana: Clearing Away the Smoke,” these researchers’ findings were published in The Open Neurological Journal, and specifically called out available information from studies on smoked cannabis.

According to the report, smoking cannabis provides rapid and efficient delivery of THC to the brain. In fact, THC can be detected in the blood immediately after the first puff, and concentrations peak within 10 minutes, then decrease to about 60% of that peak level by 15 minutes and 20% by 30 minutes.

The relatively predictable decay means that patients can monitor their own dosing--but only to an extent. The fact remains that any form of cannabis ingestion, including inhalation, can impact different individuals very differently. With the repeal of the ban on smokable cannabis in Florida, it is perhaps more important than ever that patients see a reputable, knowledgeable cannabis physician and work with them over time to determine which form of treatment will work best for their specific situation, how to dose accurately, and how to handle any adverse effects they might experience.

Not Long On The Governor’s Desk

Considering the governor’s stance on medical cannabis legality both before and after his appointment to office, it did not take long for him to sign the bill, which became official legislation on Wednesday of last week. Shortly after the bill’s house and senate passes were made public, DeSantis thanked the Florida legislature for “taking action on medical marijuana and upholding the will of the voters.”

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Not long after that initial tweet, Governor DeSantis published a follow-up thanking House Speaker José Oliva, Senate President Bill Galvano, Representative Ray Rodrigues, and Senator Jeffrey Brandes for their diligence in repealing the smoking ban.

Next Steps

The passing of Bill SB 182 opens innumerable doors for additional alterations to Florida and country-wide legislature. Many of these doors are already cracked and seeping light, and the passing of this medical cannabis smoking repeal may yet seta fire beneath the feet of those responsible parties.

One such example of burgeoning progress exists in the presently-unnamed HB-461, Rep. Thompson’s push toward “revising definitions of the terms ‘edibles,’ ‘low-THC cannabis,’ ‘marijuana,’ and ‘marijuana delivery device’” throughout the state. Thompson’s prospective bill also re-defines the terminologies surrounding “medical marijuana retail [facilities],” and expands the phrase “medical use.”

Additional propositions like Senator Pizzo’s cannabis decriminalization bill and Senator Albritton’s “Reciprocity for Medical Use of Marijuana” show promise, and fresh bills relating to cannabis legalizations are gaining popularity with each passing day. The Governor, seemingly unrelenting when it comes to cannabis legality, has even stated interest in moving toward individually-licensed cannabis businesses as opposed to vertically-integrated conglomerate strategies.

As these propositions continue to develop and more news breaks, my team and I will keep you updated on the direct implications these changes may have for medical cannabis patients here in Florida--and across the country.

Today’s blog post is written by Rick Liogier-Weyback, MD, founder, president and licensed medical marijuana physician at Doctor Jane. If you are considering marijuana treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact the Doctor Jane team at your earliest convenience.

About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical cannabis treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.

Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation.