5 Bills That Could Change How Marijuana and Hemp are Treated in Florida

Marijuana in FloridaAs we draw nearer to the 2020 election, it seems likely that recreational marijuana will be on the ballot in Florida. Yet, Florida lawmakers have already been plagued with challenges regarding the regulation of cannabis and hemp, two industries that are now worth billions of dollars. Throughout the state, lawmakers seeking to keep up with the evolving legal landscape on marijuana are proposing bills that may help legalization become a reality and would establish more lenient sentences for drug convictions.

Changes in the public’s perception of marijuana and the overall way our justice system handles drug crimes are happening faster than laws can keep up. There’s still no direct path for granting permits to medical marijuana facilities or regulating smoking after hemp was removed from the list of controlled substances. So, state legislators have introduced a variety of bills to address these — and other — marijuana issues.

SB670: Banning Marijuana Smoking in State Parks

The City of Miami Beach banned the smoking of marijuana and hemp in public spaces, including on beaches and parks. Since then, a Florida lawmaker has sought to expand their ban statewide. SB670, introduced by State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, would ban smoking and vaping of any kind in state parks. If this bill succeeds, it will take effect in the summer of 2020.

HB339: Relaxed Minimum Sentences for Marijuana Offenses

Currently, people convicted of selling and trafficking marijuana may be subjected to mandatory minimum sentencing, meaning that judges have no discretion when sentencing a defendant to prison and/or fines. House Bill 339 would introduce a major change in allowing judges to deviate from minimum sentencing guidelines for marijuana crimes involving sales and trafficking. Though the law would continue to include general guidelines, judges would have more freedom to use their discretion on an individual basis, which could lead to fairer sentences.

This bill would also establish greater thresholds for the minimum number of grams of marijuana a person could have before facing trafficking charges. If this bill goes through, it will change the state’s “tough on crime” approach to drug sentencing.

HB149: Redefining What Companies May Grow and Sell Marijuana

This bill would establish a definition for medical marijuana treatment centers and govern how the Florida Department of Health would license growers and dispensaries. The bill would end current limitations on how many companies may apply for a medical marijuana license and toss the cap that restricts companies to having no more than 25 medical marijuana facilities per license. 

Currently, businesses hoping to participate in Florida’s thriving medical marijuana industry have to jump through several hoops to succeed. Medical marijuana licenses have historically been scarce and expensive in Florida. Until recently, fewer than 20 businesses were licensed to sell marijuana in the state, and the state’s Department of Health has been sued for denying medical marijuana licenses to applicants. The sponsor of HB149, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-In-The-Hills, believes that medical marijuana costs are too high in Florida, and supports full legalization. 

HB25: Changing Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Offenses

A major issue among Americans is the reform of our criminal justice system. Under our current tough-on-crime approach, nonviolent offenders are being sentenced to lengthy prison sentences, leading to steep costs for the state and overcrowded prisons, destroying families, and, in some cases, creating more hardened criminals. HB25 seeks to reduce penalties for possession of cannabis and THC products. Juvenile offenders would be eligible for civil citations or diversion programs, helping them avoid a tainted future.

The bill would decriminalize possession of fewer than 20 grams of marijuana. Those who are still arrested and charged with possession could face reduced fines and jail sentences.

SB212: Allowing More Companies to Sell Medical Marijuana and Edibles

Senate Bill 212 would redefine edibles and low-THC products, marijuana, and marijuana delivery devices. Recently, definitions have been expanded to include medical marijuana retail stores and treatment centers as designated places to purchase marijuana products.

SB212 would also make it illegal for physicians to have an economic interest in a medical marijuana business. It would also authorize these stores to sell marijuana, marijuana delivery devices, and edibles under a new set of rules. 

If SB212 becomes law, approved facilities would need to partner with treatment centers to receive and sell their products. The facilities themselves would not be able to produce marijuana products to be sold.

Challenging a Marijuana Charge Before Legalization in Orlando

A few years ago, the City of Orlando passed an ordinance allowing police officers to use discretion in deciding whether to arrest an individual for marijuana possession or issue a civil citation. Today, many people are still being arrested for possessing marijuana, and these charges can seriously affect your future.

If you’re facing misdemeanor or felony marijuana charges, you need quality representation. Lawyers with The Umansky Law Firm have more than 100 years of combined experience fighting drug charges throughout Central Florida. We believe in fighting for second chances and can help you start your defense right away. Call (407) 228-3838 for a free consultation or complete our contact form. We’re available to discuss your case at any time of day or night.