While Florida still criminalizes marijuana possession and sale, use of marijuana and illicit drugs in general is on the rise across the United States.

Data on the usage of a variety of illicit drugs in 2010 were collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency that focuses on behavioral health. The SAMHSA annual report revealed that use of illicit drugs in general increased between 2009 and 2010.

Some of the illicit drugs covered in the SAMHSA survey included heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and various inhalants, hallucinogens and psychotropics.

When asked about use of illicit drugs by persons age 12 and older during the past month, survey respondents indicated a total of 22.6 million had used some illicit drug. By far, marijuana was the most frequently used drug, accounting for 17.4 million of the positive responses to the drug use inquiry.

Drug use among all ages

Breaking down the SAMHSA survey results by age group, the most illicit drug use occurs among people between the ages of 18 and 20. Approximately 23 percent of these respondents reported drug use in the 2010 survey, up from about 22 percent in 2009. People between the ages of 21 to 25 were the next most likely to use illicit drugs, staying level at 20.5 percent for both survey years.

In other words, the rate of persons using illicit drugs among 18- to 20-year-olds is approaching one in four; among 21- to 25-year-olds, it is more than one in five.

All but a few age groups showed an increase in drug use. Persons in the 55 to 59 and 60 to 64 age groups reported declining drug use. The oldest age group, persons aged 65 and above, reported increased illicit drug use, from 0.9 to 1.1 percent.

Even among young teens aged 14 and 15, about one in nine used illicit drugs. In the youngest age group, 12- and 13-year-olds, illicit drug use went up from 3.6 percent to 4.0 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Criminal charges in Florida

Possession or sale of marijuana in Florida is considered a third degree felony, except that the charge for possession or sale of less than 20 grams is reduced to a first degree misdemeanor. Possession of more than 25 pounds is considered drug trafficking, which is a first degree felony. Drug trafficking can carry serious penalties, including as much as 15 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Anyone apprehended in Florida on suspicion of marijuana possession, sale or trafficking can benefit from the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even with changing societal trends in marijuana use, the law is still the law and marijuana crimes are taken seriously. An attorney can help defendants protect their rights and their futures.

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