Legislation Filed in Florida to Decriminalize Possession of Marijuana: This & Other Marijuana-Related Arrest & Prosecution Changes in Florida
In August, legislation was introduced in Florida to decriminalize possession of certain amounts of marijuana without the need for a medical marijuana license. The legislation reduces criminal penalties for having 20 grams or less of the substance and/or products containing 600 grams or less of THC. The bill would also make juveniles eligible for pre-arrest diversion or civil citations on their first offense.
Currently, the law in Florida dictates that 20 grams or less is a first-degree misdemeanor and can lead to one year in jail or probation and a $1,000 fine. You can also get your driver’s license taken away and the conviction can make you ineligible for certain jobs, public housing, and other benefits, such as student financial aid. The new bill turns this into a non-criminal violations and has been filed for January 2020 legislative session.
The Arrest & Prosecution of Marijuana Is Changing in Florida
Similar to the legalization of hemp in Florida, this legislation passing could affect a large number of arrests and prosecutions involving marijuana. A number of county State Attorney’s offices have recently announced that they will no longer be prosecuting any minor cases involving marijuana; that in fact, only in felony cases will the police be required to obtain lab tests to determine THC levels. These changes are due to hemp being identical to marijuana, and this has interfered with the ability for police and prosecution to prove their cases. Because both hemp and cannabis come from the same plant, they also smell, feel, and look the same, which means that law enforcement is unable to distinguish hemp from marijuana in the field and the observation of marijuana is no longer sufficient to establish probable cause. In addition, there currently are no police crime labs in South Florida that can test for THC in marijuana. As a result, all marijuana prosecutions have effectively been halted in counties such as Miami-Dade.
If additional legislation is passed legalizing certain amounts of marijuana, this could also affect searches, seizures, arrests, and prosecutions of marijuana-related crimes. Still, some agencies have established the “odor plus” standard that still provide a certain amount of discretion regarding illegal activity, stops, and establishing probable cause, such as relying on a subject’s prior criminal history, any transactions viewed prior to the stop, signs of impairment, “nervousness,” and a suspect having a certain amount of cash on hand.
Contact Our Florida Drug Offenses Attorney
If you have been investigated or charged for a drug offense in Florida, or have any questions about the status of the law, contact our West Palm Beach drug offenses lawyer at William Wallshein, P.A. today to find out how we can help.