In 2017, Florida’s former Governor, Rick Scott, signed into law Senate Bill 8-A intended to implement Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment (the “Medical Marijuana Amendment”). Various provisions of Senate Bill 8-A – which is codified in Chapter 381.986, Florida Statutes (the “Act”) – have been challenged in court by plaintiffs seeking to expand Florida’s medical marijuana program. Under the former Governor’s leadership, the State defended the constitutionality of various restrictive provisions contained in the Act.
Florida’s newly elected Governor, Ron DeSantis, announced a much different approach – favoring an expansion of Florida’s medical marijuana program, which he says is what the people of Florida voted for. He tasked the Florida Legislature with fixing the current laws governing the State’s program. Governor DeSantis announced the following sweeping changes that he would like to see occur:
- Smoking: Governor DeSantis announced that Florida patients should have the right to smoke medical marijuana. He gave the Florida Legislature a few weeks into session to address the smoking ban contained in the Act. If they don’t, he will dismiss the State’s appeal of the trial court’s decision finding the ban on smoking unconstitutional.
- Market Expansion: Governor DeSantis stated that he also reserves the right to resolve some of the other litigation that surrounds the program. With respect to market expansion, he said “I look at how some of this was created where they created a cartel essentially. I don’t know if the [Medical Marijuana] Amendment necessarily prohibits that but that is not good policy. So I would like [the Florida Legislature] to address that as well. Both leaders of the Legislature say they are going to do it, but if they don’t we have the ability to dismiss the lawsuit so they will have that hanging over their head.”
- Vertical Integration: Governor DeSantis said: “I think it should be horizontally integrated rather than vertically integrated…Vertical integration is not free market principles…If you’re going to do it, do it according to sound economic principles.” Standing next to the Governor during the announcement was U.S. Congressman of Florida, Matt Gaetz. Rep. Gaetz added that the original medical marijuana bill that he wrote prior to the Medical Marijuana Amendment while serving in the Florida Legislature “is not worthy of defense…The structure that I built I can no longer defend.”
These changes, if adopted, have far-reaching implications for Florida’s medical marijuana market. The focus will now shift to the Florida Legislature, which is set to convene in early March of this year.