September 23, 2017

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How Will The Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Florida Effect Those Sentenced for Possession?

The ‘People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM)’ are waging a political battle to legalize marijuana for medical usage by circulating a petition to place a constitutional amendment on Florida’s November 2010 ballot.  To date, thirteen states have enacted medical marijuana laws.  The Florida Dept. of Elections has approved the petition and the group is in the process of collecting 68,000 signatures for Florida Supreme Court approval.  By Feb 2010, they must have 700,000 signed and valid petitions. Kim Russell, founder and committee chair of PUFMM, became involved in the cause because of her father’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease.  It is believed that marijuana can stop further degeneration associated with this condition. Marijuana is most well-known to relieve the intraocular pressure of glaucoma and is also tied to treatment for Alzheimer’s, arthritis and cancer.

In 1986, Congress enacted a series of Mandatory Minimum sentences for drug offenses. In Florida, possession of cannabis (marijuana) can range from a 1st degree misdemeanor to a 1st degree felony depending on the quantity.  For instance,  less than 20 grams (1 gram = .0352 ounces) is a 1st degree misdemeanor and carries a $1,000 fine and 1 year jail sentence.  Up to 25 grams is a 3rd degree felony and carries a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison.   Any possession in excess of 25 lbs. carries much stiffer penalties and higher fines – up to $200,000 and 30 years in prison.  In addition, driving privileges may be suspended.    Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif35) is sponsoring “H.R. 1466: Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009,”a bill which would eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders by amending the Controlled Substances Act and would concentrate Federal resources, allocated for prosecution, on those offenses that are major.  The Congresswoman stated on the house floor that “Mandatory drug sentences have utterly failed to achieve Congress’s goals.  Longer sentences and more people in prison haven’t translated into safer streets.”   This constitutional amendment may accomplish more than the legalization of medical marijuana.  A future implication may be relief from state-level criminal penalties for minimal possession which, for many, would offer a fresh start.
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