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Florida Marijuana Laws: Will 2016 Be the Year Florida Legalizes Weed?

Florida marijuana laws are some of the strictest in the nation and almost all marijuana-related charges are felonies. In fact, in both possession cases and distribution cases, you can be charged with a felony unless the amount at issue is less than 20 grams of marijuana, which results in a misdemeanor if charged. A misdemeanor can still carry a sentence of up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1000.

In 2015, almost 13,000 individuals were arrested on drug-related charges in Miami-Dade County. Although the data doesn’t specify how many of those arrests were marijuana-related, national statistics show that more than half of all drug related arrests involve marijuana. It appears the United States is on the verge of a marijuana revolution, however, and there are Florida ballot initiatives which could drastically change how the state treats the drug.

United for Care to Be on the November 2016 Ballot

For 2016, there were 8 proposed bills that would drastically change marijuana legislation. Many of these bills died, were withdrawn, or otherwise were taken off the table. One particular ballot initiative, however, United for Care, will in fact be voted on in the November 2016 elections. Florida voted on United for Care in 2014, but it failed to garner the 60% voting requirement mandated by the state’s constitution. In 2014, it received 58% of the vote. Accordingly, with states like Colorado seeing almost $45 million in increased tax revenue from pot sales, it stands to reason that Florida voters will breach the 60% threshold.

How Will United for Care Affect Florida’s Current Pot Laws?

While Colorado approved the recreational sale and use of marijuana, United for Care is limited to medicinal use. Accordingly, the ballot language does not immunize individuals using, possessing or distributing marijuana for non-medical use. Further, the language contemplates only “debilitating medical conditions,” including but not limited to cancer, AIDS, epilepsy and other similarly severe conditions. So, although a limited exception for the legal use of medical marijuana may very well exist in Florida’s near future, the penalties for use of marijuana outside the scope of this proposed legislation will carry the same serious consequences discussed above.

Despite the harsh consequences associated with marijuana arrests, there appears to be a trend towards leniency at least on the part of municipal governments. For example, in June of 2015, Miami-Dade County passed a measure giving police officers the option to avoid arrest and instead to issue a civil citation where the amount of marijuana at issue is less than 20 grams.

Although it may seem that the issue of marijuana charges is quickly becoming null and void, the opposite is true. Currently, we have municipalities at odds with both state and federal law that can lead to tricky legal issues if you are arrested on marijuana charges. If United for Care becomes law, it will add another layer to the legal complexities that already exist. Jeffrey S. Weiner and his experienced legal team are dedicated to staying abreast of the ever-changing drug laws, including those regarding medical marijuana, in Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida. Contact us today for competent and sophisticated representation.

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