With the proliferation of marijuana legalization across the country in recent years, one might be forgiven for thinking Florida marijuana possession is entirely legal. But in fact, as our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can explain, that is not exactly true.
In fact, even as some municipal and county governments have decriminalized marijuana possession (to a certain extent), it still has the potential to rise to the level of a felony. Much depends on where you are, the amount of cannabis involved, and whether there is evidence it was intended for more than mere personal use.
If you are arrested for any marijuana-related charges, it is wise to recognize the severity of possible consequences and hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Although it depends on the circumstances, a skilled attorney can often successfully argue to have such charges reduced or dropped entirely. Unfortunately, many people arrested for marijuana – or any drug-related offenses – tend to simply plead no contest, perhaps not realizing that the mark will remain on their permanent record, potentially impacting future employment, education, and housing opportunities.
Will I Always Be Arrested for Marijuana Possession in Florida?
No. Unlike just a few years ago, simple possession of marijuana doesn’t always end in arrest. Even when it does, chances are it will be a misdemeanor-level offense.
But people make the mistake of presuming misdemeanor means no real impact on their life. But a first-degree misdemeanor can carry up to 1 year of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.
First-time offenders may have greater success in having the penalties reduced. A good attorney can help you challenge the charges altogether.
Florida law considers possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana to be a misdemeanor. If you’re in a place like Broward or Palm Beach Counties, you’re unlikely to face any charges for possession of small amounts of marijuana, as these communities have decriminalized the drug. In Palm Beach County, the local ordinance allows police to issue civil citations, carrying a $100 fine or 10 hours of community service – no jail time. In Broward, prosecutors announced last year they would no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases involving less than 20 grams.
It should be noted, however, that because the state law hasn’t changed, civil citation – or even arrest – may still be at the discretion of the police officer.
When Might Florida Marijuana Possession be a Felony?
Although marijuana-related felony arrests have grown rarer over the last decade, they aren’t unheard of. This is especially true when large amounts of marijuana are at issue OR when you’re arrested within 1,000 feet of a school or other childcare facility. Authorities are generally more interested in crimes of trafficking or selling marijuana, which can be prosecuted under state or federal laws. (Marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic at the federal level.)
Per state law, the following penalties are applicable for marijuana possession:
- 20 grams – 24.99 pounds: Felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
- 25 pounds – 1,999 pounds: Felony, punishable with a minimum mandatory penalty of between 3 and 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
- 2,000 pounds – 9,999 pounds: Felony, punishable with a minimum mandatory penalty of between 7 and 30 years in prison and fines of up to $50,000.
- 10,000 pounds or more: Felony, punishable with a minimum mandatory penalty of between 15 and 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
Similar penalties are imposed for growing plants (i.e., less than 25 plants is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, etc.).
What About Medical Marijuana?
Recreational use marijuana may still be prohibited under state law, but medical marijuana is not. It is allowed to be recommended by medical doctors for treatment of certain diagnoses and illnesses. Operators of medical marijuana clinics operate under a series of stringent regulations and oversight.
Some of the conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Chron’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Multiple sclerosis
- Pain from terminal illness
- Parkinson’s disease
Unlike recreational use marijuana, used for personal enjoyment, medical marijuana is prescribed as a form of pain relief/appetite stimulant/anxiety-reducer, etc.
If you’re arrested for marijuana possession or any marijuana-related crime in South Florida, our experienced criminal defense lawyers are available to help answer your questions and provide sound legal advice as you navigate through your next legal steps.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
F.S. 893.13, Prohibited Acts
More Blog Entries:
Fort Lauderdale DUI Misconceptions & Misunderstandings, Jan. 1, 2022, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog