Despite the ongoing grassroots and lobbyist efforts to legalize marijuana, cannabis is still a controlled substance in Florida; possession, sale, and trafficking carry penalties such as imprisonment and fines, amongst other consequences. In this article, we review Florida marijuana laws, penalties for marijuana-related charges, and the types of defenses you may use.
Because convictions have serious repercussions and all cases are unique, secure your consultation with a drug crime defense attorney at Goldman Wetzel in St. Petersburg if you are facing charges: 727-828-3900.
How does Florida law view cannabis?
Federal and state law place all controlled substances into one of five schedules based on the current accepted medical use standards, their potential for abuse, and the likelihood of users developing a dependency.
Schedule I substances, considered the most dangerous, have no accepted medical use and have the highest potential for abuse. Examples of schedule one substances include heroin and ecstasy.
Schedule V substances, on the other end of the spectrum, are lawfully used for medical purposes and have the lowest potential for abuse.
Where does cannabis fall in the schedule? Florida’s controlled substance schedule, found in Florida Statute § 893.03, provides that cannabis is a schedule I substance, the most highly regulated type. In other words, the state considers marijuana offenses severe – and therefore, harshly punishes offenders.
Is Florida decriminalizing marijuana?
Sort of. Some cities and counties in Florida – but not currently any in or around St. Petersburg – now allow police officers to treat possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less as a civil infraction, rather than a criminal offense. This means a small fine or a couple days of community service rather than going through the criminal court system.
Meanwhile, Florida allows use of non-euphoric strains of medical marijuana by certain patients, including some who suffer from cancer and epilepsy. And Florida voted to expand medical marijuana legalization in 2016, the details of which will be determined in 2017.
But while some parts of the state decriminalized marijuana possession and Florida is expanding use of medical marijuana, possession of it can still bring consequences, including in St. Petersburg.
What is the difference between possession, distribution, and trafficking?
When determining with which offense(s) to charge a defendant, one of the things law enforcement and prosecutors look at is the amount of cannabis found in the defendant’s control. The type of offense with which the state charges you and the resulting penalties hinges upon the amount of the drug in question. (Note: The laws for marijuana-related charges that we discuss here, including amounts and penalties, are in Chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes.)
- Possession: If officers find you in possession of marijuana for your personal use, you will face possession charges.
- Distribution: If officers believe you intended to distribute or sell the drug, the state will charge you with possession with intent to distribute, or with sale/distribution.
- Trafficking: When the amount of marijuana exceeds 25 pounds, it is drug trafficking. Florida Statute § 893.135(1)(a) reads: “Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, in excess of 25 pounds of cannabis, or 300 or more cannabis plants, commits a felony of the first degree, which felony shall be known as ‘trafficking in cannabis.’”
What are the penalties for marijuana possession with or without intent to distribute?
Below are the penalties for possession of marijuana in Florida.
- Possession of drug paraphernalia (pipes, bongs, scales, dabbers, etc.): A first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. [Florida Statute § 893.147]
- 20 grams or less: Same as for paraphernalia: up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. [Florida Statute § 893.13(6)(b)]
- More than 20 grams but not more than 25 lbs: A third degree felony, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. [Florida Statute § 893.13(2)(a)]
If the state charges you with possession with intent to distribute, you face similar penalties.
- Delivery of 20 grams or less but without remuneration (monetary compensation): A first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. [Florida Statute § 893.13(3)]
- Sale, manufacturer or delivery of 25 lbs or less: A third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. [Florida Statute § 893.13(1)(a)]
Possession or sale within 1,000 feet of a school, park, college, place of worship, or public housing elevates the charges and penalty. Defendants may face second-degree felony charges and up to 15 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. [Florida Statutes §§ 893.13(1)(c), (d), (e)]
What are the penalties for trafficking marijuana?
Again, your penalties (and whether your offense falls under distribution or drug trafficking) depend upon how much cannabis law enforcement says was in your control. Once the amount of cannabis reaches the 25 lbs or 300 plant threshold, officers will consider the crime trafficking, which is a first-degree felony.
Not only are the fines and prison time greater with distribution/trafficking charges, but you will also face a mandatory minimum sentence. [Florida Statute § 893.135(1)(a)]
- More than 25 lbs but less than 2,000 lbs (or 300 cannabis plants but no more than 2,000): You will face a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of three years and a $25,000 fine.
- At least 2,000 lbs but less than 10,000 lbs (or 2,000 to 10,000 cannabis plants): You will face a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of seven years and a $50,000 fine.
- 10,000 lbs or more (or 10,000 plants or more): You will face a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years and a $200,000 fine.
What kinds of defenses can I use against marijuana-related charges?
Set up your consultation to go over your case with an attorney at Goldman Wetzel if you are in the St. Petersburg area. There are several defenses that defendants might use to fight marijuana charges, but we will only be able to provide counsel upon reviewing your case.
Much depends on the circumstances of your case. For instance, you might be able to prove that the search and seizure was unlawful, or that the drugs were not yours. We will consider all the facts of your case and determine how to approach it.
For a free consultation and legal representation from a criminal defense lawyer who handles marijuana charges in St. Petersburg, contact Goldman Wetzel today at 727-828-3900.