Tomorrow, Florida voters will have the option amending the state constitution that, if passed, could potentially impact thousands of inmates statewide.
Under the 11th Amendment of the state’s constitution, the legalization of cannabis would not have any effect on offenders serving sentences on marijuana-related crimes. In other states such as California, however, thousands of cannabis-related convictions continue to be overturned or reduced after the drug became legalized.
If the initiative does not pass, the chances are high that it will be reintroduced at a later date the closer we move towards the full legalization of cannabis use.
And the push for criminal justice reform in cannabis law isn’t the only proposed change to the state’s constitution on Florida ballots. Voters will also face the widely-contested issue of restoring Florida felons’ right to vote, currently illegal under the state’s Fourth Amendment.
Florida’s Current Stance On Cannabis Use
Medical marijuana is legal in the state for those with qualifying medical conditions. However, with physician certification, users can face criminal charges.
Here is a breakdown of state laws regarding cannabis.
· Possession – Persons found to be delivering 20 grams of marijuana or less can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.
· Possession with the intent to distribute – A conviction carries up to 15 years imprisonment.
· Sale/delivery – The sale or delivery of cannabis can result in five years in prison, five years’ probation and a fine of $5,00 fine if convicted.
· Trafficking – Depending on the facts of the case, offenders could face anywhere from three to seven years in prison at a minimum and fined $200,000 if convicted.
· Driving under the influence (DUI) – Like alcohol, any person found to be operating a motor vehicle while high can be arrested for DUI. First-time DUI offenders face up to $1,000 in fines, license suspension and six months of jail if convicted.
Public opinion on the legalization of marijuana nationwide has drastically shifted in the last two decades. The 2018 mid-term elections may very well alter Florida’s approach to cannabis-related crimes and signal a change in the years to come.