The way that the police treat marijuana cases in Florida is not consistent. Neither is the way that prosecutors and judges handle marijuana cases. As a criminal defense attorney, I have developed many strategies to help clients who find themselves facing a marijuana charge. This applies to possession of maijuana and possession with intent to sell. When most of the rest of our country can use marijuana at will, Florida is still far behind. But, with the right approach and right lawyer, you can beat a marijuana charge.
What Is the Current Law in Florida?
The medical use of marijuana law is found under Fl. Stat. § 381.986. It states that a physician may issue a “certificate” stating that a patient would benefit from the use of marijuana. The patient is then entered into the medical marijuana registry and issued a card.
The conditions that are listed for use are cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, MS, and the “catch all” of medical conditions of the same kind or class as listed before.
How Much Marijuana Can You Have With a Medical Marijuana Card?
Fl. Stat. 381.986 (14)(a) limits the amount of marijuana you can possess in smoking form to 4 ounces or a 70 day supply per your prescription. Your doctor can file a certificate to increase this amount based on certain criteria. Additionally, the marijuana must remain in its original packaging. If you don’t have an exemption, do not have more than 4oz on you or you can be subject to arrest and prosecution.
Should You Get a Medical Marijuana Card?
The decision about whether to get a medical marijuana card after an arrest is a strategic one that should be discussed with your lawyer. I am of the opinion that if you are going to keep smoking marijuana, then get a card. But, if you can get clean while the charge is pending, a negative drug screen will help you more. I advise my clients that if there is a chance that they are going to smoke marijuana again, to just go and get the card to be safe. Some clients who really want to help their case will get clean and go get a medical card to cover all bases.
Can You Use Marijuana While on Probation?
Whether you can use marijuana while on probation depends on your judge. Even though the citizens of Florida passed a Constitutional amendment permitting the use of medical marijuana and the Florida legislature came up with a law, the courts have been inconsistent with its application.
I practice primarily in Pinellas County. Here, almost all felony judges permit the use of marijuana while on probation. But, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, it is a different story. In the fall of 2022, the county court judges went to a conference and decided to change their policies. Now, in order to use marijuana while on probation, you have to have a doctor (not the doctor who prescribed the marijuana) testify that you need it for one of the medical conditions set forth in the statute. The group of judges’ position is that because marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance under Federal law, Florida doctors cannot “prescribe” marijuana. They can only “recommend” its use. Therefore, under the standard order of probation used in Pinellas County, only “prescribed” medication can be used. Marijuana does not qualify.
This new policy is causing chaos in the court system. But, until the appellate court sets forth guidance, that is the reality in Pinellas County for all misdemeanors.
What Is The Best Way To Beat a Marijuana Charge?
The best way to beat a marijuana charge is to get clean and get into counseling. You don’t even need to do that much counseling because the effort is what counts. The prosecutors in Florida realize that people’s opinions about marijuana are changing and they are having a harder time getting convictions. This means that they are looking to drop cases or reduce charges in order to get rid of them. But, to accomplish this, you must give them a reason.
In all of my marijuana cases, I like to send a negative urine screen to the prosecutor and have my clients speak to someone about their use of marijuana. I have even had multiple cases dismissed when the prosecutor asked my client to write 10 reasons why using marijuana was harmful! As silly as that sounds, it actually works!
Some people think that by going out and getting a marijuana card the charges will be dropped. While it may help, it is not the magic solution. What the prosecutor wants to see is that you made an effort to address what they see is a problem or an addiction.
Contact a Marijuana Defense Attorney
The most important thing that you can do after an arrest is to come up with a strategy for your defense. If you are going to get counseling, you must get your evaluation and start as soon as possible. You may only have a few weeks after the arrest before the prosecutor makes a decision about your charge, so you need to get the work done, get it to your lawyer, and have him or her get it to the prosecutor asap.
I have handled countless marijuana cases in my career. If you have any questions or would like a consultation about your charge, please contact me.