FLORIDA AMENDMENT #2 TO EXPAND MEDICAL MARIJUANA GETS 71.3% OF VOTES
Florida voters took to the polls on November 8, 2016, this last Tuesday to decide the heated political race for the white house. In Florida, as in many states, there were what could be characterized as marijuana legalization amendments on the ballots. Several states are apparently receptive to the idea of medically prescribed marijuana and more states are moving to the legalization of marijuana for what is termed “recreational” use. According to a report, the majority of voting citizens in every county in Florida voted in favor of Amendment 2. This amendment, a version of which failed two years ago, passed with the serious efforts and financial contributions of powerhouse Orlando trial attorney, John Morgan, of the Morgan and Morgan firm. For months as this writer was entering or exiting the Duval County Courthouse, activists with clipboards were gathering signatures on petititons in support of this movement. Under the terms of the amendment, people suffering from “debilitating illnesses” can have medical marijuana prescribed to them by their physician. This medical marijuana is to be regulated by the Department of Health. The states of Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota also voted like Florida to allow medical use of marijuana. Now 29 states are looking to have legalized medical marijuana.
SEVERAL STATES NOW ALLOW RECREATIONAL USE OF MARIJUANA
Citizens in the states of California, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to allow the legal smoking of weed. For some reason this is termed “recreational” use. This writer has never heard alcoholic beverages being bought or consumed for “recreational” use. Perhaps it is just a term used to distinguish casual weed smoking from the prescribed use designated by one’s health care provider. The following states had already legalized weed: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. This legalization also includes the government taxation that comes along with it.
A MARIJUANA ARREST IN FLORIDA STILL PRESENTS A PROBLEM
As the public acceptance of marijuana evolves across the nation, some states are going to fight legalized marijuana use for some time. Under Florida law the vast majority of marijuana arrests are misdemeanors as most folks are arrested with less than 20 grams. For a Felony a person must possess over 20 grams. It has been this writer’s experience that the bulk of these small quantity of marijuana arrests are the product of traffic stops. The police officer will usually want to search the car for guns and more serious drugs. The police officer merely states that he or she smells weed and therefore the officer does not need consent to search the car. It is not known what tactic officers will resort to as a fallback to this smelling of weed should weed eventually become legal in Florida. A person does not necessarily need to go to jail on these charges as may times the officer has the option, should he or she be so inclined, to write a citation or “notice to appear” in lieu of carting the person to jail. Many people refer to this as “just getting a ticket.” It is not just a ticket, it’s a potential misdemeanor, a potential criminal record. Few people realize that Florida law requires a 12 month drivers license revocation for a marijuana conviction. This revocation is done by the Florida DMV(department of motor vehicles, the people who originally issued the license) not the court system.
CONTRAST LAW ENFORCEMENT’S ATTITUDE MARIJUANA VS. ALCOHOL
Recently this writer’s hometown, Jacksonville, Florida, hosted an annual football game between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia. The economic impact of this event in 2015 was pegged at 35 million dollars flowing into the local economy. This event has, for decades been dubbed “the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party.” Six days before the game, heavily decorated motor homes are lined up across from the stadium to gain access to what is called “R.V. City.” This asphalt lot is across a very busy four lane road from Everbank Field, the home field of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Many folks bring along their golf carts adorned with school mascots, flags and custom paint jobs in school colors. The Police Memorial Building, police headquarters is about 1/2 mile towards downtown Jacksonville from the RV lot. In the days before the game, this four lane road, Bay Street, has the usual heavy amount of police car traffic as officers work their way to and from police headquarters and the jail. During Florida-Georgia week these officers have to dodge the golf carts in the middle of the road as for some reason the partiers relish grabbing a couple of beers and going riding up and down Bay Street. Last week this writer observed several fans operating their carts on this busy road while drinking beers (open container violation), no seat belts, no tag, no lights, obviously not obeying traffic rules while two police officers on bicycles stood calmly by and one officer had to stop his car quickly to avoid hitting them. Law Enforcement did nothing. It is not a secret that the street level officers are told by their superiors to look the other way, relax the rules, and not enforce the law because of the amount of money this game brings in. Officers will comment openly about this. One can logically assume that these officers observing the happy mid-day drinkers have written citations for the above violations or arrested folks for driving under the influence the other 51 non-game weeks of the year. The guy driving the cart may or may not have a license. Insurance doesn’t even come into play, nor does a vehicle registration. He might have multiple dui’s. He might be dangerous. Doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, across town, a college student who gets caught growing a single 3 or 4 inch pot plant in a 8oz. foam coffee cup out on his apartment balcony is subject to a felony arrest carrying up to 5 years in prison and the devastation of picking up a felony record. He goes to jail. His college degree and his future are in jeopardy. His name is entered into a nationwide criminal database. He will have to bond out, the bail bond being akin to a term insurance policy, insurance that covers the risk of him not showing up for court. He will have to fight a felony drug charge. Some crimes have to be a priority, can’t be too careful.
FOR NOW MARIJUANA IS STILL A CRIME AND CAN TAKE AWAY YOUR FREEDOM AND YOUR FUTURE
Even though the momentum is picking up nationwide for the legalization of marijuana, those arrested for marijuana are still prosecuted vigorously in North Florida. If you, a family member or a loved one has been arrested for marijuana, or any other illegal drug, many criminal defense lawyers such as the Forbess Law Firm, P.A., 904-634-0900, in North Florida provide free consultations and jail visits. Drug cases or property crimes attributed to drug abuse make up the bulk of most criminal court dockets. Try your best to sit down with a laywer.