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When Is It Legal to Use Marijuana in Florida?

There is still a certain degree of confusion regarding the legal status of marijuana and the use of cannabis products in Florida. In 2016 voters approved an amendment to the Florida state constitution that provides the “medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver” is no longer considered a crime under state law. But this did not “decriminalize” marijuana. And even for patients who qualify for medical marijuana there are still certain rules that must be followed in order to avoid potential criminal charges.

Who Is Qualified for “Medical Marijuana”?

As the law currently stands, a person is only eligible for medical marijuana if they suffer from a qualifying “debilitating” condition, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV+ or AIDS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), post-traumatic stress disorder, or another terminal illness or medical condition that is comparable to those listed above. A physician must certify a patient's qualifying condition before he or she can receive medical cannabis.

Furthermore, qualified patients must acquire medical marijuana from a state-authorized dispensary. In other words, even if you have a debilitating medical condition and a doctor's prescription, you cannot simply buy marijuana off the street, or even grow it yourself. Indeed, smoking marijuana is still illegal–authorized medical cannabis usually takes the form of oil or an alcoholic extract.

Recreational Use Is Still Illegal

Non-medical or “recreational” marijuana use remains illegal under both federal and state law. Some jurisdictions in central Florida, have taken it on their own initiative to de-emphasize arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. This is times referred to, inaccurately, as decriminalization. No municipality has the unilateral authority to permit recreational marijuana use.

Under Florida law, possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Also note that the sale or delivery of any amount of marijuana under 25 pounds is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Contact a Marion County and Alachua County Drug Crimes Lawyer Today

Finally, anyone who uses marijuana or cannabis and operates a motor vehicle may be arrested and charged with DUI. It is just as illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana as it is alcohol. And unlike alcohol, where there are reliable tests for a person's intoxication levels, a drug-based DUI charge may be based simply on the officer's observations about the driver's level of apparent impairment.

Remember, if you are charged with any type of drug-related offense in Marion County or Alachua County, you have the right to speak with a qualified Gainesville & Ocala criminal defense lawyer who can act on your behalf in dealing with police, prosecutors, and the court. Contact the offices of Dunham & Ingram LLC at (352) 353-8117 to schedule a free evaluation of your case with an experienced Florida drug crimes attorney today.