Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Even though voters approved the expansion of Florida’s medical marijuana program in November 2016, there was still a great deal of confusion as to how the program would be implemented. Lawmakers had until July 2017 to establish rules for the system, with full implementation required by September.
However, as of March 2017, state leaders were still trying to determine the direction of the program. Until that happens, residents could still face stiff medical marijuana penalties in Florida if they are caught with cannabis.
Many people who voted for expanded access to medical marijuana (71 percent of voters approved it) voiced frustration that it was taking too long to implement the program. Advocates were also angry that many state leaders were trying to do so in a way that would circumvent the will of the voters who approved the expansion.
It was very unclear as of this writing as to exactly how much pot that patients with qualifying conditions could possess. Until the expanded program is implemented, patients suffering from health issues such as cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis and a few others could only legally possess cannabidiol (CBD) oil that is low in THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. And since there were very few dispensaries located in the state, patients had to risk arrest if they tried to obtain weed illegally.
Patients are prohibited from having more than a 70-day supply of medical marijuana in their possession at a time.
The Florida government has issued 11 cultivator licenses so far. Liberty Health Sciences, one of the cultivate license holders, is looking to expand production capacity to over 25,000KG by 2019.
Until all of the issues surrounding the expanded program are clear, residents will continue to be subjected to strict medical marijuana penalties in Florida. Anyone convicted of possessing less than 20 grams of weed (less than an ounce) could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Possession of between 20 grams and 25 pounds is a felony offense that can result in five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. If you are caught cultivating 25 plants or less, that’s also a felony and carries the same punishments. Cultivation occurring within 1,000 feet of a park, college, school or another area where children tend to gather carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
In addition, possession of any sort of paraphernalia could also result in a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If you are convicted, your driver’s license will be suspended for a year.
There are some major cities in Florida (including Orlando, Key West, Tampa and Miami) that have passed ordinances giving police officers the ability to exercise discretion when encountering someone in possession of less than 20 grams of weed. They may legally issue citations instead of arresting offenders. However, some police departments still insist on arresting everyone caught with a small amount of weed, even though they have the authority to do otherwise.
Considering all of the confusion that still surrounds Florida medical marijuana penalties, patients should assume that possession of anything other than the legal amount of CBD oil could result in significant jail time and a substantial fine. Visit MarijuanaDoctors.com for the most up-to-date information about Florida marijuana laws.