As of right now, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and Washington DC. If Florida decides to legalize it as well come November, the Sunshine State will become the 24th state with medical marijuana.
According to United for Care – a campaign run by People United for Medical Marijuana – over 70 percent of Floridians support the legalization of marijuana. That support has helped the campaign in receiving enough signatures on an initiative petition to put a medical marijuana amendment on the next election ballot this November.
Although marijuana possession and use is still a crime in Florida, the numerous documented medical uses can’t be ignored. Serious and incapacitating diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, HIV, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, glaucoma, and post-traumatic stress disorder are some of the conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana use.
Additionally, “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient” would also qualify patients to obtain medical marijuana as a form of treatment.
The federal government still prohibits marijuana, but this ballot initiative is completely constitutional. On top of that, if the amendment passes and eases the state’s marijuana laws, 99 percent of the marijuana arrests could possibly be eliminated due to the FBI arresting people for marijuana crimes under Florida law instead of federal law. Ultimately, without the assistance of Florida, the FBI won’t be able to regulate or enforce marijuana prohibition.
Since the proposed amendment will be added to Florida’s constitution, the “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions” will only pass with at least 60 percent of the vote.
Current Marijuana Laws in Florida
Despite the change the future medical marijuana amendment may bring, the substance, unfortunately, is still illegal for Floridians. What’s worse, some marijuana offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences, which means that even a peaceful marijuana user might have to spend a long time in jail – for something that’s legal in almost half the country! As someone who has been an active member of NORML for 30 years and who serves on the NORML Legal Committee, I find this reprehensible, but for now, it’s just the way it is.
Under Florida law, marijuana possession, sale, or delivery are felony offenses unless the marijuana amount in question is 20 grams or less, which is then a misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession, sale, or delivery, you can be punished with fines up to $1,000 and up to one year in prison. But note that anything under 20 grams can result in fines or jail time – regardless of how small the amount actually is.
More than 20 grams of marijuana is a felony offense with varying fines and prison sentences depending on how much marijuana you are caught with.
- 20 grams – 25 pounds is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison.
- 25 – 2000 pounds is punishable by a fine up to $25,000 and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 3 years, with a maximum sentence of 15 years.
- 2000 – 10,000 pounds is punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 7 years, with a maximum sentence of 30 years.
- 10,000 pounds or more is punishable by a fine up to $200,000 and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years, with a maximum sentence of 30 years.
If you are busted with marijuana and you are within 1,000 feet of a specified area such as a school, college, park or community center, child care facility, place of worship, convenience business, public housing, or an assisted living facility, you will be charged with a felony, which is punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in jail.
If you are in possession or sell, manufacture, or deliver hash or marijuana concentrates, you will be charged with a felony in the third degree, which is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison. However, if you were within 1,000 feet of a specified area, you can be charged with a felony of the second degree, punishable by fines up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.
Even simply possessing marijuana paraphernalia will earn you a misdemeanor in the first degree, punishable with fines up to $1,000 and up to one year in prison.
Of course, with regard to any charge, you are presumed to be innocent, and the prosecution must prove its claim beyond every reasonable doubt. So, whether you did or did not commit the charged crime the prosecution must be able to back up its charge with sufficient believable and lawfully obtained evidence.
So as you can see, despite the potential of legalization on the horizon, marijuana is still looked down upon by Florida lawmakers. That’s why, if you are charged with a marijuana crime, you should seek out a drug crimes lawyer who really cares about this issue and will fight your charges and protect your rights tooth and nail. Otherwise, you could be dealing with the consequences of your conviction for the rest of your life.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.