In Florida, the possession, sale and cultivation of marijuana are regulated by both state and federal law, both of which classify marijuana (or cannabis, its biological name) as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
Currently, Florida law classifies the following as crimes:
- Possession of marijuana for personal use.
- Manufacturing (growing) marijuana.
- Sale or distribution of marijuana.
- Trafficking in marijuana.
- Possession or sales of drug paraphernalia, including objects used to grow, harvest, manufacture, store or use marijuana.
- Driving under the influence of marijuana.
Penalties for Growing Marijuana in Florida
Florida’s warm climate provides an excellent environment for marijuana cultivation, but growing weed is a crime in Florida. It’s also illegal to maintain a property on which cannabis cultivation takes place. Penalties depend on the amount manufactured, and whether the activity takes place in a drug-free zone, such as near a church or school:
- 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.
- 25 pounds or less is a felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.
- 25 to 2,000 pounds (300 – 2,000 plants) is a felony, punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum $25,000 fine.
- 2,000 to 10,000 pounds (2,000 – 10,000 plants) is a felony, punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.
- 10,000 pounds (or 10,000 plants) or more is a felony, punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum $200,000 fine.
- Distribution or cultivation within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, public housing, daycare center or church is a felony, punishable by a maximum 15 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.1
Florida’s marijuana growing laws are aggressively enforced by law enforcement agencies throughout the state. In the past 20 years, the Florida Domestic Marijuana Eradication program (DME) has focused on eradicating over 2.6 million cannabis plants from over 37,000 grow sites, and arresting over 17,000 marijuana growers in Florida.
In 2013, the DME shut down 180 indoor grow sites in Dade County, with 203 arrests; 28 sites and 25 arrests in Orange County; and 22 sites and 26 arrests in Palm Beach County. Throughout the rest of Florida, DME shut down 341 indoor grow sites with 352 arrests.2
Florida’s New Medical Marijuana Law
Florida voters will have the opportunity this November to legalize medical marijuana in their state. Passage of the ballot measure would amend the Florida constitution to “allow the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.” The amendment goes on to describe some additional allowances and regulations, including caregiver status and medical marijuana card distribution.
If the ballot measure receives 60% of the vote, legal medical cannabis could be a reality for Florida residents by the end of 2015. However, the proposed Florida medical marijuana law does not authorize any non-medical use and would not allow patients to grow their own marijuana.
Benefits of Medical Marijuana
In 20 other states and the District of Columbia, medical marijuana is providing relief to patients of all ages – from children suffering from seizure disorders to adults undergoing chemotherapy. Studies show that marijuana also relieves the symptoms of HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and cancer. Medical marijuana can also relieve chronic pain, as well as stimulate appetite in cancer and AIDS patients, and people with dementia.
Marijuana is safer than many drugs prescribed for chronic pain, easier for patients to take and for countless patients, is more effective than other drugs. Additionally, unlike opiates, marijuana is not addictive and there has never been a recorded overdose.
Should Patients be Allowed to Grow Marijuana?
In Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska, Maine and several other legal medical marijuana states, patients are allowed to cultivate cannabis for their own use. Advocates say that home cultivation gives patients guaranteed access to consistent strains of cannabis. In addition, in areas where no medical marijuana dispensary exists, home cultivation of marijuana could be the only option for a patient to get relief for his or her condition. Finally, growing marijuana at home provides a more cost effective and reliable source for many patients.
Do you think it should be legal to grow marijuana in Florida? Should medical marijuana patients be allowed to grow their own supply? Please share your thoughts below.