Should Florida Adopt the Marijuana Justice Initiative?

Recently the Marijuana Justice Initiative was introduced by the governor of Washington state. The legislation intends to permit clemency applications for a couple thousand individuals with single instances of misdemeanor possession convictions. Governor Jay Inslee introduced this initiative to the public at a cannabis industry conference. Adult use of marijuana has been legal in Washington state for three years now, and this plan streamlines the online pardon process for some 3,500 eligible applications.

Other states are considering this type of legislation, but Florida is not one of them. It is still one of the strictest in the nation regarding marijuana possession laws.

Requirements and Benefits of the Marijuana Justice Initiative

While this new initiative is well-received, it does have requirements and limitations for those applying for clemency. According to Washington state’s online government website, one can apply for a pardon under the following conditions:

  • Have only one misdemeanor conviction of adult marijuana possession.
  • Their charge was prosecuted in the state of Washington.
  • Convictions must have occurred between January 1, 1998, through December 5, 2012.

Governor Inslee has expressed that convictions for minor marijuana possession have caused more harm to the state’s residents than good. In an interview with the Associated Press, he described the financial and family hardships these offenses have brought and how convicted individuals struggle in day-to-day life as a consequence. He also made it clear that allowing ongoing punishments to continue against individuals for something that is no longer illegal needs to cease.

Washington is just one of several states that allows expungement or sealing of marijuana offenses, but these are difficult procedures usually requiring a lawyer or going to court.

Should Florida Take This Approach?

Florida currently charges those with possession of fewer than 20 grams of marijuana with a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for this charge are severe and have long-term detrimental effects on a convicted individual’s life.

Penalties can include any of the following depending on the case:

  • Jail time of up to one year
  • Probation of up to one year
  • $1,000 fine
  • Revocation of one’s driver’s license
  • Loss of eligibility for government jobs
  • Ineligibility for some types of state financial assistance and scholarships
  • Ineligibility and/or loss of public housing
  • Loss or suspension of professional certifications without participating in a drug treatment program
  • Damaged reputation

These types of penalties, while designed to encourage convicted parties to not re-offend, also can send their lives into a further tailspin of instability. Some political and community groups feel this situation doesn’t favor the best interests of Florida’s communities in the long-term. Offering clemency for one-time misdemeanor marijuana possession offenders is growing in popularity in the Sunshine State.

Florida Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Defenders

For those facing a first-degree marijuana possession in South Florida, retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney is key to reducing or possibly dismissing the charges. The Umansky Law Firm uses their over 100 years of combined legal defense experience to effectively protect your rights and fight aggressively in the courtroom to get you the best possible outcome.  

Get representation you can rely on and call us today at (407) 228-3838 for a free case evaluation. Let our team of former prosecutors help you through this challenging time in your life and protect your family and future.