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Smoking medical marijuana becomes legal in Florida

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday that now makes smokable medical marijuana legal in the Sunshine State, which had been a priority for the Republican governor since taking office in January. However, qualified patients may have to wait a bit before they are prescribed a smokable form of pot.

The state previously had a ban on smoking medical marijuana that was enacted in 2017 and signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott. The bill repeals that ban, which was passed by Florida state legislature Wednesday before it was sent to DeSantis, reports CBS affiliate WKMG-TV.

"Over 70 percent of Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016," DeSantis tweeted Monday, referring to a constitutional amendment that passed at the time. "I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld."

The governor had been vocal on the issue: "Whether they have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge?" DeSantis said at a speaking engagement in Florida earlier this year, reports WKMG-TV. DeSantis also said qualified patients should be allowed to smoke medical marijuana, explaining that lawmakers had to do away with the smoking ban by mid-March, CBS affiliate WPEC-TV reports. If they didn't, he warned that he would drop Florida's appeal of a lawsuit surrounding the ban.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, praised the law's "landmark victory" for medical marijuana patients and for democracy as a whole, according to The Associated Press.

"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."

The new law is effective immediately, reports the Orlando Sentinel, but the Florida health department must create guidelines for doctors who are planning to prescribe smokable medical marijuana. Until then, smokable pot won't be available for patients.

AP points out that smokable medical marijuana would not be available to anyone under 18 unless the patient is terminally ill, according to the new law, and if two doctors approve. Among other limitations, it could not be smoked in public or at private businesses subject to a cigarette smoking ban.

Over 30 states now allow marijuana for dozens of health problems. Lists of allowable conditions vary around the U.S., but in general, a doctor must certify a patient has an approved diagnosis. Chronic pain is the most common reason people give when they enroll in state-approved medical marijuana programs, according to an analysis of 15 states in the journal Health Affairs.

Report: Marijuana on track to be legalized by the end of the year