Sorting Out Florida’s Confusing Marijuana Laws
Florida’s middle-of-the-road stance regarding marijuana legalization is already somewhat bewildering, and an ongoing court fight has increased that confusion.
Earlier this year, a Tallahassee judge threw out the state’s medical marijuana law. The judge claimed that the Legislature had failed to implement a 2016 amendment which significantly broadened the law. It looked like this decision might go into effect, but then Florida Governor Rick Scott decided to appeal the ruling just before time expired. “The Governor has directed the Department of Health to appeal this ruling after hearing from the Legislature, which is responsible for creating laws, not the judiciary,” a spokesperson announced. It is unclear what the next step will be.
According to polls, a majority of Florida voters support some form of recreational marijuana legalization law.
What’s Legal and What’s Illegal in Florida
Amendment 2, which took effect in January 2017, made it easier to open medical marijuana dispensaries and also added to the list of debilitating conditions which qualify under the law. That list now includes:
- Multiple sclerosis,
- Parkinson’s Disease,
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and
- Any other debilitating condition that marijuana may alleviate, at least in part.
Cancer is probably the most significant addition. This condition is incredibly painful, and marijuana can ease that physical pain. Moreover, as many point out, marijuana is not fatal. In recent years, opioid painkiller overdoses have killed tens of thousands of people. A marijuana overdose may make people extremely ill, but it is never fatal. Additionally, marijuana stimulates appetite, and loss of appetite is a major cancer chemotherapy side-effect.
Currently, smokable marijuana and home-grown plants are prohibited under the law, and that’s one of the issues in the current court challenge.
Patients may have up to a 70-day supply, and that is a lot of marijuana. However, patients must also have state-issued marijuana ID cards. A prescription or card from an out-of-state doctor or agency is insufficient. Additionally, even if you have a prescription from a Port St. Lucie doctor, you must also have a state-issued card.
Dealing With a Marijuana Arrest and Court Case in Port St. Lucie
Many recreational marijuana arrests involve police dragnets. For example, if officers find marijuana in a car, they often arrest everyone in the car. But “proximity” and “possession” are not the same thing. In addition to proximity, prosecutors must also establish:
- Knowledge: The defendant must know that there was marijuana in the car, house, or whatever. That knowledge must be specific. Knowing that “something illegal” was in the glove compartment is insufficient. So, a defendant can literally be sitting on a dime bag and not legally possess it.
- Control: For example, if the glove compartment is locked, a person can only possess marijuana inside the glove compartment if that person has the key. The same principle applies if the person was in the back seat and s/he would have had to crawl over someone else to reach the marijuana.
In court, prosecutors must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. So, the state’s evidence on every point, including legal possession, must be overwhelming.
Additionally, most courts have pretrial diversion plans for first time, nonviolent offenders. So, if the defendant pays a small fee and completes some program requirements, such as a marijuana education class and some community service, the prosecutor will dismiss the case. Additionally, these programs often contain a provision for arrest record sealing.
Connect with Hard-Working Lawyers
A marijuana arrest does not necessarily mean a marijuana conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in St. Lucie County and nearby jurisdictions.