Florida House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues assured residents that the state’s new medical marijuana law would withstand the challenge brought by trial lawyer John Morgan while speaking to a Fort Myers women’s group on Monday.
Disagreement on the number of locations one distributor could operate between the House and the Senate initially looked like it would prevent the legislature from making good on the ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana that voters supported by 71 percent last year. Eventually, a deal was struck during special session allowing the measure to move forward, but not without a caveat that banned smoking marijuana as a delivery system.
Rodriguez, who sponsored the bill at the request of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, said that while he had voted against medical marijuana in the past, the anti-smoking provision was the key factor in allowing him to move forward and implement the policy that voters supported in the ballot initiative.
“I didn’t vote for medical marijuana in 2016, I didn’t vote for it in 2014 either,” said Rodrigues. “But you take an oath when you get sworn in to uphold the constitution. Whether I like it or not, that is now part of the constitution.”
The Estero Republican went on to claim that studies show smoking is an inefficient way to deliver marijuana as a medicine and that polling done by the state GOP had shown voters supported the measure for medical as opposed to recreational usage.
“It’s clear that the citizens of Florida supported legalizing marijuana for medical purposes,” said Rodrigues. “They did not support marijuana for recreational purposes. We were polling the entire time. Medical marijuana was frequently above 70 percent… recreational marijuana was never above 50 percent in the polling we were doing. It consistently polled in the 40’s.”
The law does allow patients to vaporize marijuana for delivery through the lungs without smoking it in the traditional sense.
Morgan, who filed the legal challenge in Leon County circuit court last week, said that voters supported the measure assuming that smoking would be included in the legal delivery methods.
“The people of Florida knew exactly what they were voting on, when they voted,” said Morgan. “When they were voting on it, the vast majority, if not 100 percent, knew that smoke was included. The fact that we are here today is really unnecessary, but here we go.”
Rodrigues was confident that the law would withstand any challenge while also making light of Morgan’s criticism of him personally during a press conference.
“The front runner to be the Democratic nominee for governor held a 30-minute press conference and attacked me by name 12 times for being too conservative. Sounds like a great day in the office to me,” Rodrigues said.
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