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Clarifying Florida Marijuana Offenses
Medical marijuana became legal in Florida in 2016. However, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug under federal law, which is the schedule that carries the most severe penalties for possession or sale. Because of this disparity, it can sometimes be very confusing for the average person to know when it is safe to possess or use marijuana in Florida and when doing so can get them in trouble.
Recreational Marijuana Use Is Not Legal
The most important thing to understand is that recreational marijuana use is still illegal in Florida. Possession of small amounts has been decriminalized on the local level (including in West Palm Beach) for many years, but decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization. Statewide, the possession of even amounts under 20 grams is still considered a misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in jail. Felony charges can lead to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000 – nothing to take lightly.
It is possible to assert what is called an affirmative defense to a drug charge. For example, drug charges in Florida require a showing of possession – but possession requires knowledge. In other words, if you can show that you were unaware of the drugs’ being in your possession, the prosecutor cannot completely prove their case. Even if you do not have a defense to the charges, however, you are entitled to your day in court to try and explain your situation to the judge or jury.
Legalization Of Medical Marijuana
It is worth noting that medical marijuana is legal in Florida, which can also confuse the average person. While limited quantities of marijuana are legal to possess in Florida for medical reasons, there is a very small list of conditions which allow someone to qualify for a medical marijuana card, including such serious diseases as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. If someone does not have this type of condition, they are not eligible to use medical marijuana. Even those who are eligible are strictly limited – home cultivation is not permitted, and patients can only have a four ounce maximum in their possession at any given moment.
If a medical marijuana patient exceeds the possession limits, or is caught cultivating marijuana at home, they can be tried for possession or distribution. Florida’s interest in ebbing the flow of illegal drugs has been ruled to be so strong that it trumps the patient’s need to use the drug for medical reasons if the limits are overstepped. Some patients labor under the misconception that they cannot be charged with possession or distribution, but this is simply not the case.
Call A West Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney
Drug charges are prosecuted very seriously in Florida, given the state’s unfortunate influx of illegal drugs. Marijuana has its place in medical usage, but law enforcement does not hesitate to clamp down on any other use. If you have been charged with marijuana possession or distribution, contacting a West Palm Beach drug crime lawyer at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. is a good first step. Contact us today to speak to an attorney.