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Medical Marijuana in Florida: So Close…But No Cigar

In the weeks and months ahead of Election Day, Amendment 2 had been polling in the 70-percent range. But when the final tallies came in, the measure that would have legalized medical marijuana in the state of Florida went down to defeat. While receiving 58 percent of the vote, it nonetheless failed to clear the 60-percent threshold that is required for any ballot measure to become state law.

Supporters of the measure are now undaunted and even more emboldened to bring a medical marijuana measure up for a vote again in two years. It did receive the second highest majority vote ever for medical marijuana ballot measures in any state. And Washington and Colorado – the two test cases for marijuana legalization – have seen a rise in state tax revenues while the rates of violent crime have held steady or even dipped. Additionally, although it failed to become law, Amendment 2 supporters point to the fact it gained a majority of the vote and the momentum of public approval seems to support this view. For them, it’s only a matter of time.

Roughly half of all the states in the country currently have some version of a medical marijuana bill on the books. If approved, Amendment 2 would have provided a list of specific medical conditions that could be treated with medical marijuana. These conditions include cancer and multiple sclerosis. But it was one portion of the amendment – the part that specifically states treatment for “debilitating conditions” – with which opponents of the measure had the most concern. It was too vague and broad a term, they claim, and would have allowed for an unchecked and rampant rise of marijuana use by Floridians. And it was opposed by a coalition of sheriffs, doctors, and retired state Supreme Court justices.

After the Smoke Clears…

So what does this mean? For one, it means marijuana in essentially any form – medical or not – is still illegal in the state. Only a strain of marijuana called “Charlotte’s Web” that is used primarily for treating epilepsy is allowed.

It also means the penalties for marijuana crimes remain severe. There are two basic types of marijuana-related crimes: possession and distribution. With simple possession offenses, the penalties can be anywhere from probation and fines all the way up to 5 years in prison. Whether your possession offense is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on whether you had 20 grams or more at the time of your arrest. With distribution offenses, the punishment can be anywhere between probation and a life sentence without parole. More prison time comes as a result of different factors such as whether you have been convicted before, whether someone died or was hurt during a marijuana transaction, and the amount of marijuana you had at the time of your arrest.

Even if your case is for simple misdemeanor possession, you still face the aggravation of paying court costs, having to take time off from work to attend court hearings, and having the arrest appear on your record. The potential impact upon your life is impossible to measure.

Contact an Attorney for Help

If you do get arrested for marijuana possession or distribution, your best defense requires the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. That attorney is Tony Moss. Please contact him at the Tony Moss Firm, L.L.C. to discuss your case. He has locations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and is prepared to put his experience to work for you.

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