Lawmakers Push to Decriminalize Marijuana in Florida
Just recently Florida lawmakers introduced companion bills in the state Senate and the House of Representatives, House Bill 1403 and Senate Bill 1662, which are aimed at decriminalizing the possession of marijuana in Florida. If passed, this law would stop people from being arrested in Florida for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana. This article explains Florida’s current law surrounding minor marijuana possession, and outlines how this law will change if Marijuana is decriminalized in our state.
The Current Law
Under Florida’s current laws, marijuana is classified as a controlled substance that is illegal to possess. The penalty for possessing marijuana in Florida varies depending on how much of the substance an offender is caught with, but those who are convicted of first degree marijuana possession (i.e. possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana) can be punished with a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year of incarceration in county jail, and a two-year driver’s license suspension. Because this law allows offenders who possess only a small amount of marijuana to be sent to jail, some lawmakers wish to “overhaul Florida’s draconian marijuana possession laws”, reports the Orlando Weekly.
The Proposed Law
If passed, the proposed law would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Florida. The word “decriminalize” has been tossed around a lot lately in relation to drug possession laws and often confuses the public, but it is just a fancy way of saying that the criminal penalties associated with doing something are being reduced. Therefore, the new law would simply reduce the penalties that are available under the current law outlined above.
Under the new law, adults found with an ounce or less of marijuana would not be charged with a criminal offense, but rather would be issued a non-criminal civil violation. Violators would be required to pay a fine of no more than $100 or, if they can not afford to pay the fine, complete 15 hours of community service. They would not be eligible to serve time in jail as they currently are under Florida law. Additionally, minors found with a comparable amount of marijuana would be required to complete community service or attend a drug awareness program.
Proponents of the proposed law argue that Florida’s current marijuana possession laws waste taxpayer dollars, unnecessarily fill up the state’s jails, and distract law enforcement from pursuing more dangerous criminal. Currently, many cities and counties in Florida (including Miami-Dade, Tampa, and Key West) already have local ordinances in place that afford police officers the discretion to issue a citation for minor marijuana possession, rather than requiring them to arrest the offender. However, if the proposed legislation is passed the arrest option will no longer be on the table.
Need Legal Advice?
If you have been charged with a marijuana related offense in Florida contact the Madonna Law Group without delay to discuss your case and the defenses available to you. Our experienced marijuana defense attorneys would be happy to meet with your during a free initial consultation at our Dade City office. Contact us today at (800) 557-0411.