Marijuana’s legal status seems to change all the time. Is it legal in your state? If it is, does your county agree? Can you only have medical marijuana, or is recreational okay? What are the rules under that law?
On top of those questions, we all must remember that marijuana is still federally illegal. Even if you’re in a state that allows possession and use of cannabis, you can still be arrested on federal charges.
It’s no wonder most of us are confused as to whether we can legally light up or not.
Some states, like Florida, have solidified their legislation enough that users know where they stand. Florida isn’t one of the dozens that allow recreational use, but the state is laxer than many others about weed.
Here’s everything you need to know if you plan to use cannabis in the Sunshine State.
1. Medical Marijuana is Legal
The terms ‘cannabis’ and ‘marijuana’ are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Marijuana has more than .3% THC and is derived from the sativa cannabis plant.
But not all cannabis has THC in it. Hemp comes from the sativa plant, too. It has less than .3% of THC, making it federally legal to consume and sell.
In Florida, if you want the THC part of cannabis, you need to have a medical marijuana card. Doctors prescribe the MMJ card to people with serious and/or chronic conditions, such as:
- Chronic pain
- Anxiety or depression
- Parkinson’s disease
- Terminal conditions with moderate to severe pain
The MMJ card can be obtained with a qualifying diagnosis from a licensed physician. Once you have your card, you’ll need to register it with the State of Florida. There is a $75 fee that must be paid when you become an MMJ patient.
Once you’re registered with the state, you can start buying medical marijuana. However, it’s only legal to purchase your product from a licensed medical marijuana treatment center. Buying homegrown marijuana is still illegal.
2. Recreational Marijuana is Not Legal
Marijuana isn’t just for pain. Many people choose to indulge in using weed because they enjoy the high it gives them.
The State of Florida still prohibits recreational marijuana use. Opponents cite statistics that claim it’s possible to have a marijuana use disorder. They reinforce the dangers of regular use.
As of now, these arguments have been enough to keep this type of weed banned. Proponents of the drug continue to lobby for legalizing recreational use.
Many states have already changed their legislature, allowing medicinal and recreational marijuana. States that are on the fence are watching those populations to see how they set a precedent.
3. Penalties for Possession of Marijuana
Florida officially amended its legislation to allow prescription medical marijuana back in 2016. If you’re caught possessing weed without an MMJ card, though, you can face hefty penalties.
Selling or possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana, hash, or marijuana concentrates is a felony offense. It’s possible to receive a sentence of up to 30 years in jail, along with a $50,000 fine.
Anything 20 grams or less falls in the misdemeanor category. You can still end up with a jail sentence, but the maximum is one year and a $1,000 fine. As another penalty, your driver’s license can be suspended.
There are also various penalties for illegal possession or use of marijuana for other actions, like:
- Possessing medical marijuana without a card
- Transporting and/or cultivating marijuana without a license
- Transporting marijuana across state lines
- Selling marijuana to those under the age of 18
The penalties for these actions differ by state and county. Some places are trying to end the federal marijuana ban and treat possession lightly. Others are still harshly following the War on Drugs.
Florida legislators continue to introduce bills to try to change the state’s policies on cannabis. They claim that loosening the legal stance of recreational weed, as many other states have, can only increase the opportunities for growth.
It’s true that there’s a lot of tax revenue that could be generated by legal weed sales. Small business opportunities exist, jobs could be opened up, and other benefits would be a butterfly effect.
Much of Florida is open to the idea of legalizing marijuana across the board. As of right now, only MMJ is legal, but keep watching as policies and laws change in the Sunshine State.