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Florida’s Year of Uncertainty Regarding Cannabis Laws


Cannabis laws have changed a lot in the last decade, to say the least.  Ten years ago, if you insinuated that the state or federal government was about to legalize marijuana, your friends would just congratulate you on how high you were and pass you the bong.  Smoke shops bore signs that stated in large letters that the water pipes for sale were for tobacco use only, even though everyone knew that the only places where people smoke tobacco from water pipes in Florida are hookah cafes, which have remained popular even with the advent of vape pens and decriminalized cannabis.  Weed is everywhere in Florida now, just as it was when it was completely illegal, but the laws about it are much more ambiguous.  Legal initiatives in Florida and at the federal level in 2024 highlight the liminal status of cannabis as somewhere between an illegal drug, a health fad, and a ubiquitous adult vice.  Here, our Miami drug crimes defense lawyer explains how 2024 may or may not be a turning point for cannabis laws in Florida.

How Legal Is Cannabis in Florida?

The most confusing thing about cannabis laws in Florida and other states is that federal law still considers cannabis a Schedule I controlled substance.  Other Schedule I controlled substances include heroin and synthetic cathinones.  This category of controlled substances includes drugs with no legally recognized medical use.  It is not even legal to conduct medical research on the possible medical applications of Schedule I controlled substances.  This presents a legal quandary, because there is great demand among physicians and patients and physicians to investigate the possible therapeutic uses of cannabis, psilocybin, and MDMA, including as treatments for addiction.

The federal government is considering rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule III controlled substance.  This would put it in the same category as anabolic steroids and buprenorphine, which is a main ingredient in Suboxone.  Schedule III controlled substances are pharmaceutical drugs that have a high potential for abuse, although not as high as that of Schedule II drugs like cocaine and amphetamine.

Meanwhile, Florida’s medical cannabis program began in 2016 and is still going strong.  Patients who hold a state-issued medical cannabis card may buy THC edibles and oils and smokable marijuana leaves from licensed dispensaries.  It is not legal to smoke cannabis in public places, even if you have a medical cannabis card.  In several Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, cannabis possession has been decriminalized at the local level.  This means that if you get caught smoking cannabis in public or possessing cannabis without a medical cannabis card, you get a civil citation similar to a traffic ticket; the cost of a fine is $100 for a first infraction, and it increases with subsequent citations.

Will Florida Voters Cast a Ballot in Favor of Recreational Cannabis in 2024?

For the past several years, cannabis advocates have been trying to get a ballot question on the election ballots where voters would choose directly whether to allow the sale and possession of cannabis for recreational use by adults at the state level.  If such a question appears on the ballot, and if voters decide “yes,” then Florida’s recreational cannabis laws would resemble those of 420-friendly states such as Colorado and California.

Efforts to get the cannabis ballot question onto ballots were unsuccessful for the 2022 midterm elections.  It remains to be seen whether voters will be able to decide on recreational cannabis on the 2024 election ballot.  In 2022, a main objection by lawmakers was that the ballot question was worded in a way that did not acknowledge that cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level.  Another point of opposition to the bill is that it would benefit the few companies already authorized to operate medical cannabis dispensaries in Florida, leading to something resembling a monopoly.

Legal Efforts to Limit the Concentration of THC in Medical Cannabis Products

In recent months, Republican legislators have introduced two bills namely HB 1269 and SB 7050, that would limit the THC content in medical cannabis.  Neither bill passed, since no one in history has ever suffered a fatal THC overdose.  All fatal overdose victims who have tested positive for THC had also ingested other drugs, so limiting the THC in medical cannabis would not prevent overdoses.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you present the best defenses in a drug case in light of Florida’s rapidly changing drug laws.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.



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