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Recreational Cannabis In Florida Gets One Step Closer To Ballot Initiative


If your only evidence was the number of people rolling joints in plain sight, it would be understandable if you thought that recreational cannabis was legal in Florida and had been since before you arrived here.  In fact, cannabis laws in Florida have changed quickly over the past decade, but recreational cannabis use remains illegal at the state level.  It isn’t because of a lack of Floridians who would like to see state law decriminalize cannabis possession for recreational use.  One of the ways to achieve this is through an amendment to the state Constitution.  A proposed Constitutional amendment that would decriminalize recreational cannabis in Florida has just gotten one step closer to becoming eligible for a vote on the 2024 election ballot.  Here, our Miami drug crimes defense lawyer explains the current state of cannabis laws in Florida and what could happen next regarding statewide decriminalization of recreational cannabis.

A Brief History of Florida Cannabis Laws

Federal law classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means that it is never legal for medical or recreational purposes.  Meanwhile, Florida and many other states have enacted laws at the state and local levels that make it legal to possess, and in some instances, to buy or grow small quantities of cannabis for personal use.  Florida’s medical cannabis program began in 2014, when Gov. Rick Scott signed a law allowing for medical use of oil made from a cannabis strain called Charlotte’s Web, which is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in tetra-hydro cannabidiol (THC).  The rationale was that this oil would be effective at managing symptoms of epilepsy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the pain and nausea associated with cancer and chemotherapy but would have low potential for abuse, since THC is what produces the most sought-after effects of recreational cannabis.

In 2016, an amendment to the state Constitution expanded Florida’s medical cannabis program, by increasing not only the variety of eligible cannabis products but also the number of qualifying medical conditions.  In 2019 and 2020, Florida legalized the sale of smokable cannabis and cannabis edibles, respectively.

Decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis for recreational use has occurred in various Florida counties.  Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties enacted decriminalization legislation in 2015.  Volusia, Osceola, and Alachua Counties later followed suit, as did the cities of Key West, Port Richey, Cocoa Beach, and Sarasota.  Therefore, you can legally smoke weed in most of Florida’s biggest cities and most popular tourist destinations.

How Do You Vote for a Constitutional Amendment?

Most of the time, voters vote for members of the legislative (members of the Senate and House of Representatives) and executive branches (presidents and governors), and these elected officials propose and approve laws, respectively.  In some instances, though, ballot initiatives let voters directly vote “yes” or “no” on individual laws or Constitutional amendments.

Currently, proponents of a Constitutional amendment that would decriminalize possession of up to three ounces of cannabis by adults ages 21 and over are trying to get this amendment to appear on the ballot in 2024.  The ballot initiative has received more than 967,000 signatures, which is more than it needs to appear on the ballot.  The next step is for the Florida Supreme Court to review it and to hear arguments from parties that support and oppose the inclusion of the ballot question.  Attorney General Ashley Moody is expected to oppose the ballot measure.  If the Supreme Court approves the measure, then Florida voters will be able to vote for or against decriminalized recreational cannabis on the same election ballot in which they vote for presidential candidates in the 2024 election.

What Does This Mean for Your Cannabis Case?

Just because the Gold Coast Counties have decriminalized possession of cannabis in small quantities, it does not mean that any and all 420 activities are legal in South Florida.  If you have more than 20 grams of cannabis in your possession, then your case will proceed like any other drug possession case.  Likewise, it is against the law to sell cannabis in Miami-Dade County and everywhere else in Florida if you are not a licensed distributor.  Therefore, you still need a criminal defense lawyer if you get arrested for cannabis-related offenses.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges for cannabis offenses, such as possession of cannabis with intent to deliver.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.



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