Despite the recent number of states that have decriminalized or outright legalized marijuana in the United States, it is still illegal to possess or consume marijuana for recreational purposes. On November 8, 2016, Florida State approved Amendment 2 which expands the list of medical conditions of patients who are allowed to use medical marijuana to alleviate their pain. In 2019, the legislation was expanded even further to lift the smoke band and incorporate “flower” marijuana. In other words, the law allowed adults and other qualified patients with a medical marijuana card to smoke medical cannabis by being able to buy the cannabis in plant form.
The drug goes by a variety of street names—including weed, pot, bud, ganja, and many others—and even the scent of marijuana can be used by police as probable cause to conduct warrantless searches. It is possible to get arrested for using marijuana even if it’s for medical purposes. An arrest for any kind of a cannabis-related offense in Florida can have significant consequences. In addition to possible incarceration and fines, alleged offenders also face the loss of driving privileges and ineligibility for public housing, certain employment, and federal student aid.
Were you arrested in Florida for any kind of cannabis crime? You should not delay in seeking legal representation.
John Terrezza of Terrezza Law is a criminal defense attorney in Pensacola who aggressively defends clients in communities throughout Santa Rosa County and Escambia County. Call (850) 764-5291 or fill out an online contact form to receive a free consultation that will let our lawyer review your case and discuss all of your legal options.
Depending on several factors, marijuana crimes in Florida may be misdemeanor or felony offenses. Specific penalties for cannabis-related crimes are established under Florida Statute § 893.13.
In general, the amount of marijuana that an alleged offender possessed as well as the purpose it was being used for factor into the specific criminal charges. Some of the most common offenses related to cannabis include:
On June 16, 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 (Senate Bill 1030) that legalized a low-potency strain of cannabis known as “Charlotte’s Web.” The bill was highly restrictive in terms of how the marijuana could be used and who could use it, with the product remaining largely unavailable because of difficulty establishing regulatory oversight.
“Charlotte’s Web” is marijuana that high in cannabidiol (CBD) but low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the euphoric compound that produces a high. It was approved only for patients who were Florida residents suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, or a limited number of other physical medical symptoms. A patient who suffers from severe chronic seizures and/or muscle spasms is also allowed to use low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products prescribed by a licensed professional (See Fl. Stat. §381.986). The use of “Charlotte’s Web” was also limited to pills, oils, or vaporization, as the bill prohibited administration by smoking.
Following the Senate Bill 1030, in November 2014, Florida Amendment 2 (Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions) sought to expand the number of people who could be prescribed medical marijuana as well as how it could be administered. It failed to receive the 60 percent supermajority vote necessary to pass a constitutional amendment despite the support of 57.62 percent of Florida voters. Additionally, the Office of Compassionate Use (OCU) was established to manage Florida State’s medical cannabis program.
Governor Rick Scott signed the Florida Right-to-try Act, also known as Senate Bill 1052 into law in 2015. The Senate Bill allowed physicians to provide “investigational drug, biological product, or device” for patients with terminal conditions not approved for general use by the United States Food and Drug Administration (See Fl. Senate Bill 1052). In March 2016, the existing laws that allow patients who suffer from chronic seizures and/or severe and persistent muscle spasms were expanded through House Bill 307. The bill added medical cannabis and low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to the list of experimental medicines.
On November 8, 2016, the voters approved of the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, a constitutional amendment – also known as Amendment 2 – expanding the list of medical conditions of patients who are allowed to use medical marijuana to alleviate their pain. Amendment 2 includes medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, or other qualifying medical conditions. In 2017, Senate Bill 8A was passed and it expands on the existing cannabis program with additional regulations, requirements, and rules relating to patients and physicians (See Constitution of the State of Florida Article X Section 29).
In the recent years medical marijuana laws continue to develop. In 2018, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the state’s ban on smoking cannabis is unconstitutional and that the constitutional amendment of 2016 broadly legalized medical cannabis and allow patients who meet the medical conditions the right to smoke marijuana in private. Previously, smoking medical marijuana was prohibited. Nevertheless, in 2019 Governor Ron DeSantis pushed for the passing of Florida Senate Bill 182. The bill legalized the use of smokable medical cannabis throughout Florida for adults and other patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and is a qualified patient diagnosed by a qualified physician (See Fl. Senate Bill 182).
In 2017, Amendment 2 became effective and the legislation allowed quailed persons to receive a prescription to medical marijuana or low-THC marijuana products. Medical marijuana has a higher THC concentration than a low-THC product (e.g., CBD oil). A “qualified patient” can legally obtain medical marijuana through a "qualified physician." The physician must be certified to prescribe medical marijuana under the regulations of the Compassionate Use Act.
According to Florida Statute §381.986, to qualify for a medical marijuana identification card a patient must be diagnosed with one of the conditions below:
The recreational use of marijuana is a crime in Florida. If an individual is caught with possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis or with possession paraphernalia, the offense is considered a first-degree misdemeanor with a penalty of a fine of up to $1,000 and one (1) year of imprisonment. Furthermore, if the possession is more than 20 grams but less than 25 lbs. of cannabis, it is considered a third-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and five (5) years in prison.
The maximum amount a qualified physician can prescribe a patient is three 70-day supplies of cannabis. The penalty for possession increases depending on the volume of marijuana. Possessing more than 20 grams is third-degree felony, therefore, depending on the dosage if your qualified physician prescribes the maximum supply it could exceed the 20-gram misdemeanor threshold.
Florida’s CBD laws have drastically changed since the Farm Bill 2018, the bill removed hemp from the list of Schedule I controlled substances. Afterwards, the Senate Bill 1020 introduced many changes to the legislation of CBD oil in Florida. The law legalized hemp and defined “Hemp means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a total delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration” containing less than 0.3% THC by weight.
The current popularity of hemp is causing confusion for many law enforcements and officers. It is no longer enough to just smell the odor of marijuana to charge someone, because hemp is legal, and both smell the same. Currently the legalization of hemp has caused a grey area as officers are not able to adequately test for THC in a substance nor can they an individual’s THC levels.
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) of Florida — NORML is a nationwide nonprofit organization that opposes prohibition or marijuana and has fought to significantly lower criminal penalties for cannabis-related offenses. In addition to its decriminalization and legalization efforts, the group’s 501(c)(3) sister organization, the NORML Foundation, conducts research and publishes special reports to educate the public on marijuana policy. This section of the NORML website links to the Florida chapter’s homepage where you can find legalization news and information on upcoming events.
United for Care — People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM) and United for Care are statewide organizations that have campaigned for the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida. On this website, you can learn more about their constitutional amendment petition, endorsements they have received, and recent news about medical marijuana. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions, facts about the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and the stories of people helped by medicinal marijuana.
The Florida Senate – Follow the link to The Florida Senate to search for Florida Statutes, Constitution, actions on legislation, and much more. Florida’s Statute Title XXIX. Public Health §381.986 details the lawful and unlawful use of medical marijuana, definitions, penalties, etc.
Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) – The Florida Department of Health established the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) and it is tasked with creating and implementing the rules and regulations for medical marijuana, including licensing Florida marijuana businesses to cultivate, process, and dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients and overseeing the statewide Medical Marijuana Use Registry. Visit the link to check on updates, view laws, find a qualified physician or a medical marijuana treatment center, and more.
If you have been arrested for any kind of cannabis offense in Florida, you will want to retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Terrezza Law can fight to get criminal charges significantly reduced or completely dismissed.
Pensacola drug crimes defense attorney John Terrezza defends clients in Milton, Pensacola Beach, Gulf Breeze, and many other surrounding areas of Escambia County. You can take advantage of a free, confidential consultation that will let our lawyer review your case as soon as you call (850) 764-5291 or submit an online contact form today.