Marijuana remains illegal under both Florida and Federal law. However, there have been changes to Florida law in this area as Floridians continue to push for decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. According to a recent poll, 88% of Florida residents support legalizing marijuana for medical use and 55% of residents support legalizing the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana. We’ve started to see these have real impact.
Decriminalization for Possessing <20g
The wheels of justice are slow moving, and our federal or state legislature is unlikely to promptly decriminalize. Fortunately, though, many of our local governments have taken action to decriminalize marijuana.
By way of reference, Florida state law still remains as follows: possession of 0-20g of marijuana is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail. However, in July 2015, Miami-Dade County passed an ordinance allowing local police officers to treat these small possession offenses as a civil infraction (fine up to $100) instead of a crime, which results in an arrest and potential imprisonment. Since then, other communities have followed suit. Miami Beach has imposed a similar policy; Hallandale Beach and Broward County have, too.
The Cannabis Act (SB 616)
Sponsored by Senator Dwight Bullard (Dem-FL), this bill would have removed cannabis from the Schedule I list of controlled substances. The schedule I list purports to encompass those substances with “a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment.”
Unfortunately, SB 616 died in Regulated Industries committee.
Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, authorized certain doctors to prescribe low-THC cannabis for specific patients and conditions. The law requires the the Department of Health to create a registry of those authorized for compassionate use, and it authorized some medical centers to perform cannabidiol-related research.
In Jordan Redavid’s view, given the passing of The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, the language controlling Schedule I (namely, “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment”) is plain enough to ultimately remove cannabis from this schedule.
In the end, though, all Floridians should know that state law has not yet officially legalized possession of smaller quantities. As such, although local prosecutions may be taking a different approach, this is not yet the norm.