By Jim Saunders and Jim Turner The News Service of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, June 23, 2017......... More than seven months after Floridians overwhelmingly backed the broad legalization of medical marijuana, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed a bill aimed at carrying out the voters' wishes.
Lawmakers passed the bill (SB 8-A) during a special session this month after struggling to reach agreement on an implementation plan for the medical-marijuana constitutional amendment, which 71 percent of voters approved in November.
Scott's office sent out a news release after 5:30 p.m. Friday that said he had signed the marijuana bill, along with 37 others, but did not comment. He had indicated earlier he would approve the bill.
The constitutional amendment gave doctors the authority to order marijuana for potentially hundreds of thousands of patients who suffer from debilitating conditions including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.
But as is commonly the case, a plan still needed to be put in place to carry out the amendment. The bill resolves issues such as how many companies will receive marijuana licenses and how many retail outlets they can operate.
It appears likely, however, that Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment, will challenge part of the bill that bars people from smoking medical marijuana. The bill would allow vaping and other methods of marijuana use.
Lawmakers who supported the smoking ban pointed to concerns about issues such as the health effects of smoking marijuana on people's lungs. But Morgan has vowed to file a lawsuit to try to overturn the ban, saying voters envisioned that patients would be able to smoke cannabis.
“(Smoking) clearly was called for in the amendment, and so what they've done for me is allowed me to step back up on my soapbox and go get what the people of Florida wanted when they passed this bill with 71 percent,” Morgan told The News Service of Florida this month.
The marijuana measure was the highest-profile bill signed Friday by Scott.
Among the others was a bill that would help wireless telecommunications companies in dealing with local government regulations.
The measure (HB 687) would limit the ability of local governments to regulate types of equipment known as "small wireless facilities" in public rights of ways. The equipment is for emerging 5G technology. The bill, which becomes law July 1, drew objections from local governments, at least in part, because it would take away their authority.