In June, Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 1020, legalizing the cultivation and sale of hemp and hemp-based products such as CBD in Florida.
However, the legalization of hemp poses a serious dilemma for state courts and law enforcement since crime labs cannot tell the difference between cannabis and hemp.
Due to this predicament, Miami-Dade State Attorney Jack Campbell announced at the end of July that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases for the time being. In addition, Martin County Sheriff William Synder informed his officers to stop arresting pot offenders.
According to the Florida hemp law, anything with a THC level of at least .3 percent is hemp, while anything over that limit is considered marijuana. THC gives users a high.
Since both cannabis and hemp derive from the same plant, they also have the same appearance and odor. In other words, it is difficult to visually distinguish each substance to establish probable cause to make an arrest for marijuana possession.
Other states such as Texas and Ohio have also legalized hemp and stopped prosecuting marijuana crimes as a result of the new legislation. The hemp laws from these states and Florida contain similar language from the Federal Farm Bill.
Yet, Miami and Tallahassee police departments warn pot possession is still illegal. After establishing probable cause, law enforcement will collect any evidence related to the potential crime.
Florida law states that possession of fewer than 20 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor offense, which carries a jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum $1,000 fine.