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Florida Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Decriminalizing Recreational Marijuana & The State’s Medical Marijuana Licensing Scheme On Same Day


On May 6, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments about proposed constitutional amendments that would legalize (i.e. decriminalize) recreational marijuana here in Florida. As it is currently drafted, the amendment would allow adults 21 years or older to display, possess, purchase, transport, and use up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana accessories for personal use for any reason. The fight before the court is between those seeking to put the proposal on the 2022 ballot, but who need the state Supreme Court to sign off on the details first (including the wording that the voters will see, which is very important), and the state, which is asking the court to throw out the proposal by arguing that it is misleading to voters (given that recreational marijuana is illegal at the federal level, and the wording of the ballot measure fails to explicitly point this out to voters).

However, those putting forth the proposal have pointed out that this is the exact same system that resulted in the constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana in Florida four years ago. They argue that the text is clear and unambiguous, and that they are proposing to change the only constitution that they can legally change, which is Florida law. It is the court’s job to now examine whether the proposal meets legal standards, such as whether the measure’s wording is misleading.

Case Analyzing State Legislature’s 2017 Follow-Up to 2016 Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure

On the same day, the Court also heard arguments in a case that affects the medical marijuana laws and industry here in Florida as well. After the 2016 ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana passed and became part of the state constitution, the state legislature passed a law in 2017 which mandates that companies be able to handle all stages of the medical marijuana business in order to legally operate (i.e. receive a license) in the state, including growing, processing and distributing products.

However, one business is now challenging this law, arguing that this was not the intention of the constitutional amendment and effectively limits the number of companies that can participate in the market, which also keeps out competition, keeps prices high, and harms Florida’s patients who are in need of medical marijuana products at reasonable prices. As of now, the 1st District Court of Appeal has upheld part of a temporary injunction issued by the Leon County Circuit, which found that the 2017 law conflicts with the constitutional amendment.

The Importance of Wording in Ballot Measures

These battles highlight the tension that often exists between ballot measures/constitutional amendments and state laws passed by the legislature subsequent to these ballot measures, which are often passed in an attempt to regulate and control what Florida citizens have voted on (similarly to the ex-felon voting issue here in the state). They also highlight just how important wording on a ballot measure is; for example, simply using the word “or” instead of “and” can make all the difference in the world in terms of who has rights under a given amendment and how far the legislature can go in regulating what that amendment does.

Meanwhile, Too Many Are Arrested For Marijuana Crimes Each Year

Until recreational marijuana is decriminalized here in Florida, serious criminal penalties apply, including incarceration for between one to 30 years and fines between $1,000 and $200,000, depending upon the amount of marijuana involved. In addition, unfortunately, marijuana arrests still outnumber arrests for even violent crimes, such as assault and rape, and a disproportionate number of those targeted for marijuana-related arrests are African-Americans.

If You Are Facing Drug Charges in Florida, Contact The Very Best in Criminal Defense for A Free Consultation

Although medical marijuana is legal in the state, it also inevitably opens the door for police to take certain liberties in terms of search, seizure, and arrest activities if someone is found with marijuana and does not have their medical marijuana card on them, for example.

If you have been charged with a drug crime here in Florida, contact the Orlando criminal attorneys at The Baez Law Firm today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.



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