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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.  — Florida's ban on the use of smokable medical marijuana by eligible patients ended March 18, 2019, when Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill repealing it.

DeSantis' signature on the first legislative bill he has approved since taking office in January 2019 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 Florida voters in 2016 approved Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana, 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, also a Republican, 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.

Bill Comes with Restrictions

DeSantis gave lawmakers a mid-March 2019 deadline to act on repealing the ban, which both the Senate and House 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 younger than 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 tobacco smoking ban.

Private property owners would have the right to prohibit it and patients wouldn't be able to possess more than 4 ounces, or 113 grams, 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.”

— Curt Anderson