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Legal, Recreational Marijuana in Florida: An Idea Whose Time is Coming?

Quinnipiac University, in Connecticut, has released a recent poll that shows a clear majority of Florida voters supporting the legalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana (or “ganja”) for personal use. The poll indicates that 55 percent of voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana growth and personal use in Florida. Only 41 percent of Florida residents oppose legalization. The most supportive voters are those under the age of 30. Those over 65 are much more likely to oppose the legalization. In light of an upcoming November vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana for debilitating illnesses, the state’s legalization movement is clearly experiencing an increase in momentum.

The Colorado/Washington Experiment: The Template

The Florida legalization movement follows similar initiatives in Colorado and Washington, both of which became the first two states to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana. Both states are reporting an increased number of tourists, and an increase in related revenue, since they legalized ganja in early 2014. The states are also reporting lower law enforcement costs as resources are diverted to more pressing criminal issues. (Alaska and Oregon will vote on legalization during the November elections.)

Opponents of any Florida initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana are joining forces as they oppose the November medical marijuana initiative. However, the same polls show strong support for that initiative, with nearly 88 percent in favor. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is considering a presidential bid in 2016, is among those opposing legalization on all levels. Numerous law enforcement and anti-drug coalitions are also vocal in their opposition. So far, however, the initiative appears on course for passage, with only a 60-percent “yes” vote needed for enactment.

Don’t Light Up Too Carelessly: Marijuana is Still Illegal in Florida!!

No matter what the future holds, the possession and sale of marijuana in any amount is still illegal in Florida, and you may face serious consequences if you are arrested for violating Florida drug laws. One of the strictest is the Florida Grow House Eradication Act. Enacted in 2008, the Act makes the growing of 25 or more marijuana plants a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. (Seedlings are included when counting the number of plants.) The law also makes the possession of 25 pounds of harvested ganja a violation. Even simple possession of one ounce (28 grams) or more is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. (For less than 28 grams, the charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail, or by a fine.) So if you’re inclined to indulge, the safest place is still in the privacy of your own home—not at a public location or in your vehicle.

No Movement on the Federal Front

While states may legalize the possession and sale of marijuana, these actions are still illegal on a federal level. The movement to end the federal prohibition of ganja is also heating up and the news media are jumping on board. The New York Times recently announced its support of ending the federal prohibition, a task the Obama administration may soon undertake. Numerous conservative organizations, usually considered pro-law enforcement (often to a fault), are lending their support, on grounds such as respect for personal liberty and the need to re-direct scarce police resources to more pressing concerns. And federal agents are more lax in their enforcement of federal law in states such as Colorado. However, they continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who are growing large numbers of plants. Federal grow house laws make it a felony to grow any number of plants. Being caught with 100 plants or more can result in up to 40 years in a federal prison. Under federal law, the mass cultivation of marijuana (over 1,000 plants) is punishable with a sentence of life in prison.

As you see, the state of Florida and federal law enforcement officials continue to take the sale and mass growth of ganja very seriously. Please contact attorney Tony Moss at The Tony Moss Firm, L.L.C.  if you or a loved one is being prosecuted under either the Florida or federal grow house laws. He has locations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and is prepared to put his expertise and knowledge to work for you.

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