Florida's Medical Marijuana Law: What it Means to Criminal Law

Last month, Florida became the 26th state to enact medical marijuana legislation when voters approved Amendment 2. Backed by over 70% of voters, the amendment expands existing limited-use legislation for patients with cancer or seizure conditions to include individuals who suffer from a range of medical ailments, including glaucoma, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions as doctors see fit.

Officials are still refining the state’s medical marijuana system and the framework of legislation surrounding regulation. Under the amendment, Floridians will be required to establish a physician-patient relationship with a specially licensed doctor for at least three months before they can obtain a prescription.

Although it will likely be several months before medical marijuana becomes accessible to patients, there are still things the public should know and understand – especially when it comes to marijuana and the law.

Marijuana Can Still Result in Legal Problems

While the passage of Amendment 2 is considered a victory in the marijuana movement and trend toward ending the prohibition of pot – it does not change existing criminal laws. Here’s how marijuana can still result in legal problems despite the new medical marijuana law:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – Driving under the influence of marijuana is still a criminal offense that carries stiff penalties, including possible terms of imprisonment, fines, and driver’s license repercussions. In recent years, laws regarding marijuana DUIs and the methods used to determine when a driver is too high to drive have raised many questions. Still, officers can and do arrest drivers if they believe they are under the influence.
  • Possession Possession of marijuana can still result in legal problems. Current Florida law makes the possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana a 1st degree misdemeanor. In several counties across the state - including Broward, Miami-Dade, and Volusia - city ordinances allow officers to determine whether to arrest suspects for possession of less than 20 grams of pot or issue a civil citation accompanied by a fine. Even in jurisdictions where local ordinances decriminalize possessing under 20 grams of pot, authorities still have the discretion to make arrests.
  • Federal Law – Marijuana is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance under Federal law. Cultivation, trafficking, and distribution can result in federal criminal charges and life-altering penalties, including lengthy prison sentences.
  • Public Use - Medical marijuana patients are not allowed to smoke marijuana in public under Amendment 2.

Amendment 2 was a big win for Florida voters, but it is not the end of marijuana prohibition. Florida residents can still face marijuana-related charges, and whenever that happens, our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. are available days, nights, and weekends to help.

Our firm’s Partners have decades of experience handling marijuana cases as former prosecutors and defense attorneys, and we continue to remain up-to-date with the evolving laws and procedures. To speak personally with a lawyer from our team, contact us today. We proudly serve clients throughout South Florida.

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