If you have paid attention to the news in the last 10 or 15 years, you may have noticed that marijuana has become a hot topic of debate. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it’s been determined to have “no acceptable medical use,” and a “high potential for abuse.”
Many scientists, medical experts, researchers, and doctors strongly disagree that marijuana has no acceptable medical use, and that it should be a Schedule I substance – right up there with LSD and heroin! After all, there has been a growing body of science-backed research that shows exactly the opposite.
Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a government agency, says that there are two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoids (chemicals in marijuana) and that “Continued research my lead to more medications.” Today, medical marijuana is used to treat numerous diseases and conditions, such as:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Mental disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neuropathic pain
- Alzheimer’s disease
With so many healthcare providers and researchers recognizing the medical uses of marijuana, legislatures and voters across the country are taking notice, and increasingly decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses. What does decriminalization mean? It means that it’s treated much like an infraction, and there is no arrest, no incarceration, and a very small fine (if any).
Where does Florida stand on marijuana?
As of this writing, 21 states have decriminalized possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, including but not limited to: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
If you notice, Florida is NOT on this list. That’s because Florida has not decriminalized minor marijuana offenses, at least not yet. But, the Florida Marijuana Policy Project is working hard to change that.
Since June of 2015, several cities and counties across the state have given officers the authority to issue citations to people for possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana, instead arresting them on the spot.
While this is a positive step in the right direction, many departments say that they will continue arresting people for marijuana. So, the residents of Florida shouldn’t get too excited or let their guard down when it comes to possessing pot.
Until Florida lawmakers soften the state’s marijuana possession laws, it’s still a crime to possess any amount of pot. The penalties for marijuana possession in Florida are as follows:
- Possessing 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, and up to one year in jail.
- Possession of more than 20 grams to 25 pounds is a felony, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison.
- Possessing more than 25 pounds, but less than 2000 pounds is a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
If you simply “give” marijuana away to someone else, you could face misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to one year in jail, and up to a $1,000 fine.
On the other hand, if you sell 25 pounds or less, you commit a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and by a maximum fine of $5,000. So, even if you sell less than 20 grams of pot to someone else, you could end up with a five year prison sentence.
Florida’s Diversion Programs for First-Time Offenders
Florida has diversion programs designed for first-time misdemeanor and felony offenders who are willing to accept responsibility for their actions and seek rehabilitation. Upon successful completion of one of these programs, the offender escapes the stigma of a criminal record.
For example, the Felony Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) is administered by the Florida Department of Corrections. Under the PTI program, first-time felony offenders are given the opportunity to divert their case from the trial court and avoid a criminal conviction. In order to qualify for this program, the offender must have committed a qualifying third degree felony that was nonviolent in nature.
A drug offender cannot participate in the felony PTI program if they were caught possessing LSD, heroin, methamphetamine, or one-half gram of cocaine or more.
Facing drug charges in Tampa? Contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. for a free criminal defense consultation!