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Defending Against Marijuana Possession Charges

Marijuana remains a contentious drug in the United States. While some states have legalized both recreational and medicinal use of cannabis, others, like Florida, prohibit the use of marijuana unless for licensed medical use. In today’s blog, we discuss who qualifies for medical marijuana use in the state, penalties for misdemeanor and penalty possession or distribution, and how you might fight a marijuana-related charge.

Medical Marijuana in Florida

In 2016, voters passed the "Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative," which legalized medical marijuana for individuals with specific debilitating diseases or comparable debilitating conditions as determined by a licensed state physician.

Qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana in the state include:

  • ALS
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • PTSD
  • Seizures
  • Terminal illness (patients diagnosed with no more than 12 months to live)
  • Chronic nonmalignant pain (pain that is either caused by or originates from a qualifying medical condition)

Patients who possess a physician’s recommendation may legally obtain medical cannabis provided by state licensed dispensaries. Qualified patients are permitted to possess up to 4 ounces of herbal cannabis if a recommending physician recommends that the benefits of smoking marijuana for medical use outweigh the risks.

Illegal Recreational Possession of Marijuana

While marijuana is legal for medicinal use, it remains illegal for recreational use. Possession of even small amounts of marijuana is a crime, as we will discuss below.

Misdemeanor and Felony Possession

Possession of marijuana can be punishable as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the amount in question. You could face the following penalties for specific amounts of marijuana found in your actual or constructive possession:

  • 20 grams or less: a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • More than 20 grams: a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
  • 25 pounds or less: a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
  • 25 pounds to 2,000 pounds (or 300-2,000 plants): a felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 3 years to a maximum of 15 years in prison as well as a maximum fine of $25,000.
  • 2,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds (or 2,000-10,000 plants): a felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 7 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison as well as a maximum fine of $50,000.
  • 10,000 pounds or more: a felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison as well as a maximum fine of $200,000.

Misdemeanor and Felony Sale/Trafficking

The sale or trafficking of marijuana is also punishable by heavy penalties dependent upon the amount in question. The delivery of 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1-year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. The sale of cannabis, however, has much severer consequences depending on the amount, as follows:

  • 25 pounds or less: a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
  • 25 pounds to 2,000 pounds (or 300-2,000 plants): a felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 15 years in prison as well as a maximum fine of $25,000.
  • 2,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds (or 2,000-10,000 plants): a felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 7 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison as well as a maximum fine of $50,000.
  • 10,000 pounds or more: a felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison as well as a maximum fine of $200,000.

Be aware that the sale or delivery of cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, or other specified areas is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Further aggravating factors in both marijuana possession and sale/trafficking cases that could enhance your sentencing include:

  • possession near any drug-free zone;
  • possession in the presence of a minor, or giving marijuana to a minor;
  • repeat convictions for possession or other offenses;
  • growing or possessing marijuana with the intent to sell it;
  • driving under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or both.

Alternative Sentencing Options

Florida allows diversion for first-time offenders charged with the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Diversion provides an alternative to prosecution or conviction if the defendant successfully completes counseling, treatment, and other requirements, and diversion could help first-time offenders avoid a criminal record.

In some cases, the defendant might also be able to argue for probation in lieu of jail time. In this case, the jail sentence will remain a possibility throughout the probation period in which the defendant must comply with all the probation conditions and not commit any other crimes. After successfully completing probation, though, the defendant has also effectively served their jail sentence. However, note that probation will still show as a conviction on a criminal record.

Defending Against Marijuana Charges

There are multiple avenues you could take if you have been accused of possessing marijuana. Perhaps the most common defense is claiming unlawful search from law enforcement officers. While police are not required to obtain a warrant to conduct a search of your vehicle if illicit drugs are found in plain view (e.g. a car’s dashboard), they are not allowed to search your car without a warrant if they do not have probable cause to believe you possess illicit drugs. For example, if the police had no warrant and would need to pry open your trunk to specifically find marijuana, this is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

You could also argue that the marijuana didn’t belong to you (e.g. you share an apartment with multiple people), or that you were subject to unknowing possession. In this scenario, you cannot be found legally guilty of marijuana possession because you didn’t even know you possessed it.

In another case, you could also argue that the marijuana in question was for medicinal rather than recreational use if you have the license to prove it.

Let Hubbs Law, P.A. Help. Contact Us Today!

If you have been charged with marijuana possession in Florida, contact an attorney immediately for legal representation. Marijuana laws are still fairly strict in Florida, as any possession of cannabis is illegal in the state and tight restrictions are in place even for medicinal use of marijuana. Our team at Hubbs Law, P.A. can assess the facts of your situation and craft a strong defense for you to fight unfairly harsh penalties that you do not deserve.

Contact Hubbs Law, P.A. to schedule your consultation today!

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