Florida needs to do the right thing on January 8, 2019: Allow medical marijuana patients to smoke their cannabis.

On January 8, 2019, an appeals court will hear arguments on whether the current ban on smoking medical marijuana is a direct violation of the constitutional amendment that Floridians overwhelmingly voted to implement in 2016. The fact that we are still having to fight for this two years after the amendment was approved is, in short, ridiculous and unjust.

It is blatant hypocrisy to ban legitimate patients from smoking their medicine under the guise of health concerns when we allow any Floridian over the age of 18 to do the very same thing with tobacco, a substance that is known to lead to many forms of cancer and kill people. Let’s take a minute and absorb that. We allow cigarette smoking, but the argument against allowing Florida medical marijuana patients to smoke raw cannabis flower is that “it’s a health concern”. As if robbing patients of one of the most commonly-used routes of administration of their medicine wasn’t enough, the State of Florida adds insult to injury by giving the completely asinine excuse of “health and safety concerns”, when the true reason is that they are looking to implement as many hurdles as possible in a program that they didn’t want to become a reality in the first place. We are talking about patients lives and quality of living now; this is no place for political agendas or for imposing a failed war on drugs. In the end, the people will have what is just and fair. It’s unfortunate that we have to fight such a long and arduous battle to get what we voted for two years ago.

Don’t be mistaken: we agree that in general, vaporizing cannabis is healthier and better for long-term health of the lungs than smoking combusted material. But we shouldn’t take that choice away from patients when in regard to treatment that is as highly individualized as cannabis treatment is. Everything is variable: the chemical makeup of the patient, the strain of cannabis they are using, the time of day they are medicating, interactions with other foods/drinks/medications, the route of administration – there are countless factors that impact the overall result of medicating with cannabis. If a patient says that smoking marijuana world better for their condition than vaping or eating it, is it really fair and compassionate for us to strip that right away from them? Absolutely not, especially when we allow those same individuals to consume (often by smoking) cancerous tobacco products that they purchase. This type of hypocrisy has no place in a program that was founded on the premise of “compassionate care”. Anything that limits patient access and affordability of products is not compassionate, including the caps set on the number of dispensaries that are allowed in the state (but we’ll save that discussion for another time). 

Hopefully, the judge that hears the case on 1/8/2018 will have enough empathy, compassion, and common sense to realize what a ridiculous and senseless battle that Rick Scott and his administration waged on hundreds of thousands of patients in the state of Florida over the course of the past two years, and rule once and for all that the ban on smoking cannabis is what it is: unjust, unfair, hypocritical, and most importantly, unconstitutional. We also hope that Governor-elect Ron DeSantis won’t continue this pattern of appealing ruling after ruling in favor of our patients; hopefully Mr. DeSantis will remember that he is representing the people of his state, not the Republican party, and follow through on his promise to “fully implement the wishes of voters to allow medical marijuana in this state”.Whether or not he realizes it, his action (or inaction) on this important topic will be an early defining moment of his time as governor, and could determine his ultimate success in working with the people of Florida to move forward and progress even further together.

This battle against the medical cannabis patients in Florida has gone on long enough. May those that are able to make a difference read this and do the right thing if they weren’t already going to do so – allow the patients of Florida to smoke their cannabis the same way they are allowed to smoke tobacco. There is nothing to gain in upholding the ban on smoking, but everything to gain by allowing it: If we allow the amendment to be carried out as was written (and allow smoking), that means medical marijuana treatment centers can offer full flower sales, which will encourage competition and generate even more revenue for the state. We can make 2019 a successful year for all, political affiliation notwithstanding. There’s no reason not to allow patients the right to smoke their cannabis as was intended in the original language of the amendment. Let’s get the new year off to a good start in Florida and vote/rule in favor of unity, progress, and compassionate. Allow Floridians to smoke their cannabis – there’s simply no reason to uphold the ban any longer.

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