New Bills May Change Marijuana Laws in Florida

About a year ago, Tampa moved towards decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana possession. Tampa joined the cities of Key West, Orlando, and Miami-Dade County allowing officers to give citations to people possessing less than 20 grams instead of making arrests. Soon the rest of the state could follow. If two lawmakers are able to gain support for and pass their new bill, Floridians possessing small amounts of cannabis may now receive citations instead of jail time.

Congressman Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) and Senator Jeff Clements (D-Lake Worth) filed a bill at the beginning of this legislative session re-categorizing small possession from misdemeanors to non-criminal civil violations.

What Does It Mean If You’re Caught with Marijuana (under HB 1403)

If this bill should become law, people found with small amounts of marijuana would face:

  • Paying a fine of up to $100
  • Up to 15 hours of community service (minors would receive service time, not fines)

The penalty would be based on income.

Currently, if you’re caught with any amount of marijuana, you could be fined up to $1,000 and could face up to a year in jail. According to NewsChannel 8, 40,000 Floridians were arrested in 2016 on misdemeanor drug possession and 90% of those charges involved marijuana. The ACLU estimates those arrests cost taxpayers $228,635,840.

Where Does Medical Marijuana Stand?

Last election cycle, the Florida electorate passed Amendment 2, the medical marijuana law, and it’s up to legislators to draft implementation plans. This session, which began March 7, saw five implementation plans introduced–four in the State Senate, one in the House.

  • SB 614 (Brandes) allows an open market and eliminates the cap on distribution centers. It also creates four new types of licenses. Companies could be licensed to grow, process, transport, or dispense.
  • SB 406 (Bradley) permits physicians to issue certifications to specific patients; requires written consent of a legal guardian for the treatment of minors; calls for annual reassessment of patients; compels the Department of Health to register caregivers and to register dispensing organizations as medical marijuana treatment centers. It also mandates these centers retain copies of transportation manifests.
  • HB 1397 (Rodriques) provides a sales tax exemption for medical marijuana and asks that testing labs be established. There’s an appropriation for this of $9,158,463.
  • SB 1388 (Artiles) directs the Department of Health to register medical marijuana treatment centers instead of dispensing businesses/operations.
  • SB 1472 (Galvano) establishes the Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education Board to govern operations of the coalition. This board would be charged with advising on research and education throughout the state. There’s a companion bill in the house, introduced by Rep. Toledo.

Florida has come a long way towards decriminalizing marijuana in the past few years but there’s still a ways to go. This legislative session will be an interesting one.

If you’ve been charged with marijuana possession, you don’t have the luxury of seeing how the legislative calendar works out. You need help and answers now. Call Dean Tsourakis, an experienced Clearwater defense attorney, at 727-785-2700. The initial consultation is free.