Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference Thursday to voice support for ending the smoking ban that’s mired the state in litigation and frustrated patients since medical cannabis became legal in 2016. “Whether they have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge that?” DeSantis said. “I don’t think this law is up to snuff.”
DeSantis will now file a “stay of decision” on the medical cannabis smoking ban appeal. DeSantis will give the state legislature a chance to act, and if they don’t he’ll drop the appeal himself. “Both leaders of the Legislature say they’re gonna do it but, you know, if they don’t we have the ability to dismiss this lawsuit,” DeSantis said, adding, “This is all about doing the people’s will.”
Gaetz, who helped draft the state’s medical cannabis law and was a key member of DeSantis’ transition team, said he was wrong to support the ban on medical cannabis smoking. “Those lawsuits don’t do anything to help patients,” Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said, or give confidence that the state is running a “safe, effective and credible medical marijuana program.”
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Lawyer and cannabis advocate John Morgan, who spearheaded and funded the state’s medical cannabis push and took the state to task online and in the courts over the no-smoke rule, took the podium in Winter Park, FL, his “home turf.” Morgan said, “Since this governor was elected, I’ve been incredibly encouraged,” adding, “We’ve had some private conversations before this but I am proud to be here today, thankful to be here today, grateful to be here today.”
DeSantis said he expects there be movement on the no-smoke issue by mid-March.
“We have a lot of fish to fry in Florida,” DeSantis said toward the end of the press conference. “The last thing I want to do be doing is cleaning up something that should have been done two years ago. I don’t want to continue fighting some of these old battles.”
In addition to DeSantis and Gaetz, there’s a noteworthy chorus on the issue of cannabis in the state: New Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried made national headlines when Wells Fargo shuttered her campaign account because of her cannabis advocacy (read Cannabis Wire’s interview with Fried here); and Rep. Charlie Crist, recently appointed to serve on Congress’ powerful Committee on Appropriations, held a cannabis and veterans event last August at Surterra, a major cannabis player in the state and nationally.
Other cannabis news from the conference: A reporter asked if DeSantis supported recreational legalization. “I don’t,” DeSantis replied, referencing the desire to keep cannabis away from teens, but reiterating his support for medical cannabis access for those with debilitating conditions.
Gaetz also rescinded his support for vertical integration, or when one company holds licenses up the supply chain, from growing to processing to retail.
“The structure that I largely built is one that I can no longer defend,” Gaetz said. DeSantis also said he isn’t a supporter of vertical integration, adding that the law created a “cartel, essentially.”
“I think it should be horizontally integrated rather than vertically integrated,” DeSantis said.
Talk about mixed signals: lifting a ban on smokable products can be seen as a boost to the existing industry, currently dominated by a few large players, but the statements against vertically integrated “cartels” suggest a desire to open up the industry to more and smaller players. One question is whether the currently licensed companies will be grandfathered in to their vertically integrated status, and what that means for newcomers’ ability to compete.