Until relatively recently, medical marijuana was illegal in Florida.
However, 2014 saw the passing of the Charlotte’s Web Bill which permitted high CBD, low THC extracts to treat a handful of specified conditions. Two years later, the program was expanded. Terminally ill patients were permitted to use medicinal marijuana without restrictions on the level of THC.
However, Amendment 2, while establishing a fully-blown medicinal marijuana program, created some very strict regulations including making purchasing dried flower illegal and banning cannabis growth in the home.
2017 saw a law being passed to stop smokable marijuana from being used. There have been challenges to this legislation and it was eventually ruled in 2018 that patients could use smokable medicinal marijuana to treat debilitating conditions if it was recommended by a certified doctor.
In Florida, possession of marijuana is defined as the ability to manage, control or own the drug. In the state, someone may be convicted of possession offenses if they were either in constructive or actual possession of the drug.
The term “actual possession” refers to the defendant having the drug physically on their person, in a close-by location or container while also being in control of the drug.
The term “constructive possession” refers to situations in which the defendant doesn’t have the drug physically on their person but they do have control over the cannabis or they have concealed it.
In terms of Florida legislation, multiple people can be deemed to be in possession of one drug. This applies if several people are living in the same residence.
The only legal way to possess whole flower smokable marijuana in Florida is to be in possession of an MMJ card together with a certified doctor’s recommendation for smokable products. This order needs to be re-written by a physician every 35 days. There is also a limit on the amount of whole flower that patients can buy – 2.5oz every 35 days.
The amount of bud or flower that qualified patients are permitted to possess is 4oz.
While many other U.S. states have decreased the penalties for possessing marijuana or reclassified it as a less dangerous drug, this has not happened in Florida. Possessing even a small amount of marijuana in the state can result in a significant penalty without a valid MMJ card.
For possession of marijuana in Florida, the following penalties apply depending on the amount:
Up to 20g – this is classified to be a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is a fine of a maximum of $1000 and a maximum of 1 year in prison.
20g – 25lbs – this is classed as a felony. The maximum penalty is a $5000 fine and 5 years’ imprisonment.
25lbs – 2000lbs – the maximum penalty for possession is a $25,000 fine and incarceration of between 3 and 15 years. The mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years is routinely used.
2000lbs – 10,000lbs – the maximum penalty for possession is a $50,000 fine and between 7 and 30 years imprisonment.
10,000lbs or over – the mandatory minimum penalty for this offense is a 15-year jail sentence. If convicted, the fine could be as high as $200,000 together with as long as 30 years in jail.
In Florida, possession of cannabis plants is viewed as a serious offense. The potential penalty depends on the number of plants. Under 25 results in a maximum fine of $5000 and a jail sentence of up to five years. For possession of over 2000 plants, the minimum mandatory sentence 17 years in jail or as long as 30 years with a $50,000 fine.
Both concentrates and hash are classified as a schedule 1 narcotic in Florida. Possession of either, therefore, results in a 3rd-degree felony conviction. The penalty could be a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to five years in jail.
Possessing marijuana-related drug paraphernalia is viewed as a misdemeanor in Florida. The penalty is a maximum fine of $1000 and a maximum jail sentence of 1 year.
In some circumstances, possession of cannabis attracts a harsher penalty. These are applied if the offense occurs in a specified area, such as within 1000 feet of a school.
People in Florida should be aware that there are mandatory minimum sentences in the state which apply for certain marijuana possession offenses. These represent the shortest jail sentence which judges are able to order based on the defendant’s charges. Legally, a judge cannot impose a shorter sentence below that minimum time. Also, if a defendant is convicted and a mandatory minimum sentence applied, usually there will be no eligibility for an early parole.
In some municipalities in the state of Florida, different local rules apply with regard to the possession of marijuana. Some have essentially opted to decriminalize marijuana for personal use. In Orland, as an example, police offers are permitted to write a citation rather than arrest an offender. In the case of possession of under 20g of cannabis, offers are permitted to write citations with a fine of $100 in the case of a first time offender, or $200 for a second time offender. In the case of repeat offenders, the fine can be as high as $500 and a court appearance may be necessary. It’s important to note that in some jurisdictions in Florida, paying the citation is the same as admitting guilt. Therefore, the result can still be a criminal record. While Orlando, Key West, Tampa and Miami-Dade County have all currently decriminalized possession of marijuana for recreational personal use, many of the state’s other municipalities are still classifying marijuana possession as an offense for which you can be arrested.
For anyone who has been charged with marijuana possession in Florida, it’s important to get advice from a qualified criminal defense lawyer. Often, people who have been charged with marijuana possession are also charged with other drug crimes, like selling, manufacturing or the intent to sell the drug.