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Cannabis in Florida – Laws, Use, and History

Medicinal cannabis is legal in Florida, but recreational cannabis, at present, is not. Various representatives have attempted to pass bills to make cannabis use legal, but so far, they have been met with opposition. As such, the penalties for possessing or selling the drug remain severe, with prison sentences in place for even minor offences.

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      Cannabis laws in Florida

      The US is governed by federal and state laws. This article covers the cannabis laws in the state of Florida. For US federal laws, please visit this page.

      Can you possess and use cannabis in Florida?

      At present, it’s illegal to possess and use cannabis in Florida. If caught with 20 grams or under, the offender may be given a prison sentence of up to a year, and/or a $1,000 fine. If the amount of cannabis is over 20 grams, the offence becomes a felony, rather than a misdemeanour, and the prison sentence rises to as long as five years (with a possible fine of $5,000).

      However, attempts are being made to make recreational cannabis use legal, as it is in some other US states. In 2019, state representatives Carlos Guillermo Smith and Michael Grieco filed a bill, seeking to legalise the drug. This wasn’t given a hearing or a vote. Their bill proposed to permit adults over the age of 21 to “use, possess, and transport” up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, and grow up to six plants.

      One significant obstacle stands in the way of recreational cannabis being legalised, and that’s the restriction of citizen drives. Pushed by Republican representatives, the bill limits the impact citizen petitions can have on constitutional amendments. Given that four of the amendments involve changing current cannabis law, this is likely to be a major issue in the future.

      Governor Ron DeSantis signed this controversial bill in June 2019, and it came into immediate effect. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel referred to the move as an “arrogant abuse of political power.”

      Can you sell cannabis in Florida?

      Selling cannabis is also illegal in Florida. If the offender is caught trying to sell 20 grams or less, then the maximum prison sentence is one year, with a $1,000 fine. Selling 25 lb or less is a felony, and can result in up to five years in prison, plus a $5,000 fine. Anything over 25 lb but under 2,000 lb is punished with a three to 15-year prison sentence and a fine of $25,000.

      If the laws change after the 2020 general election, then selling cannabis may become legal. Regulate Florida are petitioning to not only get recreational cannabis legalised, but also to create a regulated industry, enabling the plant to be sold to the general public.

      Can you grow cannabis in Florida?

      It’s illegal to grow cannabis in Florida. If caught cultivating less than 25 plants, the maximum prison sentence is five years (with a $5,000 fine). For 25 to 300 plants, the sentence is increased to a maximum of 15 years and a fine of $10,000; and if the amount of plants is between 300 and 2,000, this changes again, to three to 15 years in prison, plus a $25,000 fine.

      If the offender is caught growing 2,000 to 10,000 plants, then the prison sentence is seven to 30 years, with a $50,000 fine. Any cultivation that takes place within 1,000 feet of an educational establishment, park or other specified area can result in a 15-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

      The law may change in the future, permitting people in Florida to grow a limited number of plants for personal use only, in their homes. However, at the time of writing, the situation hangs in the balance.

      Is CBD legal in Florida?

      Since Congress removed hemp from their list of illegal drugs, CBD has been technically legal to use, sell, and buy in Florida. It must come from a licenced grower, and it isn’t allowed to contain more than trace levels of THC (the substance responsible for providing a ‘high’).

      In real terms, the law is far more complex. The Florida Department of Agriculture’s official stance is that it’s not legal to sell hemp or CBD, but Nikki Fried, the Agriculture Commissioner, is currently attempting to push through legislation to bring state law in line with federal law.

      In the interim period while the situation is ambiguous, the authorities have been largely turning a blind eye to consumers purchasing and using CBD. The few crack-downs that have occurred have been involving CBD retailers, not buyers.

      Despite the confusion surrounding the legality of CBD, sales have been booming across the state. During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, sales rose by around 59%, with people claiming they were using it to cope with depression and anxiety.

      Can cannabis seeds be sent to Florida?

      Cannabis seeds are legal in Florida, and may be freely purchased and sold. When it comes to mailing them into the state from another state, the law is a little more ambiguous, and there have been some reports of seeds being withheld at customs.

      Medicinal cannabis in Florida

      Although medicinal cannabis is still illegal at federal level, it was legalised in Florida in 2016. Bill 182 was originally approved by Florida’s Senate in 2014, with a 36 to three vote; and it was put in place to ensure that children with epilepsy had access to medicinal cannabis to treat their condition.

      The Senate’s decision was based on the case of a young girl called Charlotte, who was using CBD oil to treat her epilepsy. The bill was nicknamed the ‘Charlotte’s Web bill’ in honour of this girl, and after the high CBD cannabis strain that was named after her too (‘Charlotte’s Web).

      • Edibles cannot have bright colours, or resemble any commercial candy to minimize attraction to children.
      • They cannot be decorated with sprinkles, icing or any topping.
      • Edibles must be packaged appropriately, and can come in the form of lozenges, candy, baked goods, chocolates and drink powders.
      • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels must not exceed 10 mg in single servings, or 200 mg in multi-servings.

      Possessing cannabis-infused edibles without a valid medicinal card is illegal.

      Obtaining medicinal cannabis in Florida

      • have a Medical Marijuana Use Registry ID card, which permits them to buy and possess medicinal cannabis.
      • have a qualifying condition.
      • be a permanent or seasonal resident of the state.
      • agree to keep the medicinal cannabis in Florida – it can’t legally be taken across the border.
      • agree to use it privately – public use is forbidden.
      • store it out of reach of children, ideally in a locked box.

      How to qualify for an ID card

      In order to qualify for medicinal cannabis, the patient must first be diagnosed by a qualified physician. If the patient is under 18, a second physician needs to agree with the original diagnosis.

      Once approved, the patient is then entered into the Medical Marijuana Use Registry (and their caregiver, if applicable). They can then apply for an ID card, and obtain cannabis products at any approved Medical Marijuana Treatment Centre. Alternatively, they can have the products delivered to their home.

      Qualifying conditions

      The following health conditions have been approved for medicinal cannabis treatment in Florida:

      Industrial hemp in Florida

      Industrial hemp was legalised at federal level in 2018, under the Farm Bill. In 2019, Florida’s Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill, establishing a framework for the regulation of hemp cultivation in the state.

      If approved, the bill directs Florida’s Department of Agriculture to start drafting the rules for the state’s hemp industry, with regards to safety standards, licencing, and quality control. An advisory council will also be created, providing education to local communities, and explaining how hemp differs from cannabis.

      Good to know

      If you are travelling to Florida (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:

      • Although the authorities are adopting a relaxed approach to CBD at present, there have been clamp-downs on certain products. For example, in 2019, $33,000 worth of CBD edibles were seized, as they looked too much like children’s sweets.
      • In 2019, the Florida Board of Medicine officially approved the prescribing of smokeable medicinal cannabis.
      • The famous OG Kush strain was first cultivated in Florida, after a California strain was paired with Hindu Kush from Amsterdam.

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      Cannabis history

      It took a long time for cannabis to make its way to Florida. Elsewhere in the country, the plant’s popularity grew significantly during the prohibition period (the 1920s), but Florida took a little while longer to fully embrace it.

      However, by 1931, the Key West Citizen commented that: “use of marijuana, a drug made from a Mexican plant, is rapidly spreading in the United States. And, the pity of it is, there is little legislation to prevent this.”

      At this time in the US, notable public figures and businessmen were promoting negativity towards the plant. Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the US Bureau of Narcotics, launched a smear campaign, blaming cannabis for several violent offences in the country. These cases of cannabis-inflicted crime were later debunked by historians.

      The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 saw the plant banned in Florida, along with the rest of the country. Although public perception was largely negative throughout the 1940s, by the 1950s and 60s, hippy culture had taken root – and cannabis was taken up by Florida’s hip young citizens.

      In fact, Florida was one of the first to embrace cannabis. The Miami Pop Festival (which was held a year before Woodstock) was full of people smoking it, along with performances by Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, and Jimi Hendrix.

      By the end of the 1960s, Florida was known as the US’s cannabis smuggling capital, with the drug regularly entering the ports. This continued throughout the following decade, though as well as gaining a reputation for trafficking the drug, the state was also renowned for growing it too.

      Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs in the 80s meant that Florida’s cannabis fields were covered in chemicals, as part of the eradication efforts. The drugs cartels weren’t too worried about selling cannabis covered in toxic substances, which resulted in users getting sick. In 1988, the Miami Herald stated that the plant was the second biggest crop in Florida, bringing in around $400 million each year.

      By the 1990s, attitudes were changing once more. In 1991, Kenneth and Barbara Jenks were arrested for using cannabis to treat their AIDS symptoms. They appealed their conviction and were later acquitted. This, and other similar cases, eventually led to medicinal cannabis being legalised – though it took over 20 years for it to happen.

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      Attitudes towards cannabis

      The legalisation of medicinal cannabis demonstrates how attitudes towards the drug have changed in Florida. When the Medical Marijuana Legalisation Initiative was put to the vote, 71% of the state’s citizens approved it – a considerable majority.

      There is still some opposition to its use; notably from Republican representatives. However, it seems that the public are largely open to the legalisation of the drug.

      Will it be legalised in the future?

      Various attempts have been made to legalise recreational cannabis use in Florida. So far, none have been successful – but experts suggest that it’s only a matter of time before the legislation is passed.

      Buying Cannabis from a Dispensary vs. Growing Your Own Marijuana

      As a marijuana enthusiast, whether you enjoy recreational or medical cannabis, you may consider whether you should buy cannabis at a dispensary or grow your own marijuana. There are benefits and limitations to both options. Before you decide which way you will obtain your marijuana, see the pros and cons of each.

      Cannabis Dispensaries

      When purchasing cannabis from a local dispensary, consider all the pros and cons to see if it’s the best option for you.

      Pros: Obtaining Cannabis from Dispensaries

      • Receive a high-quality cannabis product – A dispensary is obligated to make you fully aware of what is in the marijuana strain that you are purchasing. The cannabis products are labeled with the amounts of THC and CBD and the specific terpenes. Marijuana products have been tested for pesticides and chemicals.
      • Variety of marijuana products – Dispensaries have an abundance of cannabis products that marijuana consumers can purchase. You’ll find marijuana edibles, concentrates, cannabis flowers, topicals, vapes, pre-rolls, and tinctures for sale at your local dispensary. If you are a medical card holder, with qualifying medical conditions, you’ll have a wide selection of cannabis products available to help treat your condition.
      • Availability – When you shop at a cannabis dispensary, you are able to buy marijuana when you’d like to consume it. On the other hand, when you grow your own cannabis, you have to wait a lengthy time for the marijuana seeds to produce a yield.
      • Reliable – Marijuana dispensaries usually have the cannabis products you want in stock. You can even check online to see your local dispensary’s marijuana inventory before you purchase with cash in-person.
      • Legal – Possessing marijuana is legal in an increasing number of states. If you go to an operating dispensary, you can be sure that they are following guidelines and laws as they want to stay open and not get fined. See all the states that have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical use.
      • Get your cannabis questions answered – Budtenders employed at dispensaries are full of cannabis knowledge. You can ask any marijuana related questions for recreational or medical use, and they will be able to help you.

      Cons: Obtaining Cannabis from Dispensaries

      • More expensive option – Overall, the convenience of having budtenders and cannabis cultivators grow the marijuana for you, adds to the cost of the marijuana products that you will find at a dispensary. Cannabis dispensaries are also heavily taxed so consumers see those taxes included in the price tag. If you are a regular cannabis consumer, you might find that purchasing marijuana from dispensaries is more costly as opposed to growing your own cannabis.
      • Marijuana laws and cannabis possession limits – There are cannabis possession limits that vary for every legalized marijuana state. Dispensaries have to be aware of how much they sell to marijuana users, and provide top of the line cannabis products to consumers, or they may lose their license and receive fines. See Illinois recreational marijuana laws from Leafly which states that recreational marijuana users over the age of 21, can possess 30 grams of marijuana or less, a total of 5 grams of concentrate, and the limit for cannabis edibles is 500 milligrams. Medical card holders are able to possess 2.5 ounces or less of medical cannabis every two weeks.
      • May have to travel a distance to find a cannabis dispensary – If you live in a legal marijuana state, some counties still don’t have dispensaries. This means you will have to be willing to travel a bit to get your marijuana.

      Cannabis Cultivation: Growing Marijuana Yourself

      Of course, you may realize that you’d like to consider growing your own marijuana. There are pros and cons to this method as well.

      Pros: Growing Your Own Marijuana

      • Save money buying marijuana – In the long run, you will most likely end up saving more money on obtaining marijuana by cultivating cannabis yourself. Of course, you have to expect upfront costs of purchasing all of the necessary growing equipment, but after you breakeven, you will end up seeing a difference in cost of growing cannabis and buying marijuana from a dispensary.
      • You can select which cannabis strains you’ll produce – From the start of the growing process, you will be able to select and purchase the cannabis seeds to plant. The more care and attention the plants receive the better quality marijuana product you will end up being able to smoke or consume.
      • You are in control of your marijuana garden – As you plant your marijuana garden, you will choose if you’d like to use pesticides, fertilizers, or grow organically. You can experiment with the growing process and see what works best for you and produces a quality product.
      • More resources available to marijuana cultivators – There is more information regarding growing your own cannabis to marijuana users who have always wanted to give it a shot but never knew how to begin. There are online sites, forums, videos, blogs, and even podcasts that have become popular as more and more cannabis users consider growing their own marijuana.
      • You always have a stash of marijuana available – Once you have the process of growing cannabis down, you will have your own cannabis inventory. This means you won’t have to drive to a dispensary and wait in long lines.
      • Gain overall appreciation and knowledge of the cannabis plant – As you grow marijuana, you will learn more about the cannabis plant.
      • Legal to grow your own cannabis in most states – In Illinois, it is only legal for medical marijuana users to grow their own cannabis. Leafly states the Illinois marijuana growing laws which say that medical patients who have medical marijuana cards, can grow up to 5 cannabis plants if they follow all of the legal guidelines.
      • You can use all parts of marijuana plant – When you go to a dispensary, you don’t always get every part of the marijuana plant including the stems, leaves, and seeds.

      Cons: Growing Your Own Marijuana

      • Limited strains produced – When you grow your own cannabis, you don’t have the wide assortment of marijuana products that cannabis dispensaries offer. You are usually able to grow only one type of strain.
      • Takes a lot of resources to grow cannabis – Time, money, upfront investment, and space either indoors or outdoors. Length of process varies depending on environmental factors. You also have to budget for expensive growing equipment, including lights, soil, grow tents, marijuana seeds, and water.
      • Legally grown – Follow regulations including keeping out of reach of children by locking the room or area where cannabis is being cultivated. You also have to make sure the marijuana garden is not public, so you should grow cannabis in tents.
      • Cannabis possession limits – Each states’ marijuana possession limits still apply to cannabis cultivators. You have to be careful how much of a yield your cannabis crop will produce as you can be fined for how much marijuana you grow. Remember that possession amounts vary from state to state. Keep in mind, if you are a medical patient, you can usually possess higher amounts. It pays to know the law in your state.
      • Lack of cannabis knowledge – If you try to start growing marijuana without doing proper research, you will risk ruining your harvest, and losing your investment.
      • Requires constant care – You will have to spend time each day monitoring your marijuana garden or indoor grow room. If you neglect your marijuana plants, you risk them being ruined by pests, disease, and mold growth which leaves you with worthless cannabis plants, and you will have to start all over.

      There are pros and cons for each of these methods of possessing marijuana. You have to see which option, either buying cannabis from a dispensary or growing marijuana yourself is best for you by weighing the pros and cons. We may be biased, but we think dispensaries offer a great deal of variety and quality marijuana products. Choose an EarthMed dispensary for your cannabis purchases.

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