TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida House began moving a bill Tuesday designed to comply with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' demand that lawmakers repeal a ban on smokable medical marijuana by mid-March, but there remain differences with a similar bill moving in the Senate.
The House Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill on a 14-2 vote that would allow doctors to prescribe smokable marijuana. The bill restricts its use to pre-rolled, filtered marijuana cigarettes. A similar Senate bill was unanimously approved by the Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee later in the afternoon.
Voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, but lawmakers banned smokable forms of the plant in a bill signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2017. The state was sued over the issue and a judge declared the ban unconstitutional. Scott, now a Republican U.S. senator, appealed the ruling. DeSantis said last month that the current law doesn't represent the will of the voters and said he'd drop the appeal if lawmakers didn't repeal it as one of their first actions when their annual session begins next month.
Even though Republicans implemented the ban, Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, said after the meeting that they have to take action. If not the smoking ban could be removed without restrictions if DeSantis drops the appeal.
"What we'd be facing, essentially, would be the wild, wild West when it comes to the use of medical marijuana. We believe there should be guardrails around that," Rodrigues said.
The bill has other restrictions. Doctors would have to report other forms of marijuana that patients tried and state that the benefits of smoking outweigh the risks. Smokable marijuana couldn't be prescribed to anyone under 18.
A Senate bill to allow smokable medical marijuana nearly died last week after language was added that would have require two doctors to say it is the only form of marijuana patients can use. Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes stripped that language out of the bill before it was approved by its second committee Tuesday. Brandes' bill doesn't limit smokable marijuana to pre-rolled, filtered cigarettes.
The differences between the bills will have to be worked out soon to meet DeSantis' deadline.
"It's a tight timeline, but our goal is to meet it," Rodrigues said.