Marijuana Possession, Growing, Distribution and Trafficking Charges
Get a Lakeland defense lawyer who knows Florida law
Despite the growing popularity of the marijuana legalization movement, having any amount of recreational marijuana in your possession is still a crime according to Florida criminal code. If you’re facing charges, you need an experienced Lakeland cannabis defense lawyer who will fight to clear your name and protect your freedom.
You can’t afford to go it alone when you’re facing marijuana charges. Even a single drug charge can have a significant impact on your future, and an attorney who knows how to fight back will put you in the best position to move forward. That’s why you need Thomas C. Grajek, Attorney at Law on your side. Get your free consultation today.
How does Florida law criminalize marijuana?
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under Florida law, though the law treats it slightly less harshly than other Schedule I substances. Florida’s drug laws provide a wide range of marijuana crimes – those who are simply growing a few plants for their own personal use or who are found with one or two joints’ worth of marijuana are likely to be charged with a minor misdemeanor, while large-quantity distributors and traffickers can be subject to the same types of felony charges as those who traffic in other illicit substances like heroin and cocaine.
- Possession of marijuana
- Possession with intent to distribute
- Growing or manufacturing marijuana
- Marijuana trafficking
- Possession of marijuana paraphernalia
- Knowing or conspiracy to commit a marijuana crime
Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana (about two-thirds of an ounce) is charged as a misdemeanor, subjecting you to up to a year in prison if convicted. Possession of between 20 grams and 25 pounds of marijuana is considered a third-degree felony in Florida, carrying a maximum five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $5,000.
Charges of marijuana possession often go hand-in-hand with charges of paraphernalia possession. However, possession of marijuana paraphernalia (like water pipes, bongs, roach clips, or rolling papers) is a contraband crime that permits confiscation of the items but does not provide for separate criminal charges.
The sale of marijuana is treated much more harshly than possession, but the severity of the crime class, possible prison, sentence, and fines increase with the amount just like they do for possession. The distribution of marijuana is a misdemeanor if the amount that exchanged hands was less than 20 grams and no money was paid by the person receiving it. Otherwise, selling or intent to sell 25 pounds of marijuana or less is considered a third-degree felony according to Florida Criminal Code, regardless of whether the amount sold was one ounce or 100 ounces.
Selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, church, or daycare is a first-degree felony with much more significant penalties, including a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Florida law imposes harsh punishment for the trafficking of marijuana. Florida Criminal Code defines marijuana trafficking as the “knowing sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery, or knowing possession of” more than 25 pounds of marijuana or 300 or more cannabis plants.
Possession of between 25 and 2,000 pounds of marijuana (or up to 2,000 cannabis plants) will be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of at least $25,000. Possessing between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds of marijuana or between 2,000 and 10,000 cannabis plants can lead to a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years and a $50,000 fine if convicted. A conviction for possession of more than 10,000 pounds of marijuana or 10,000 cannabis plants yields a minimum prison sentence of up to 15 years.
The possession of 25 or more cannabis plants is deemed prima facie evidence of intent to distribute, which means you’ll bear the burden of proving the plants were meant for personal use (or that they belonged to someone else).
Federal law also criminalizes the possession and trafficking of marijuana; however, Florida’s sentencing guidelines for many marijuana-related offenses are so harsh it’s often not worthwhile for federal prosecutors to pursue marijuana charges, too.
What are some potential defenses to marijuana charges?
Law enforcement officers use aggressive tactics to obtain evidence if they suspect criminal activity. Sometimes they don’t follow proper protocol, breaking the law while trying to find evidence against you. One example of illegally obtained evidence is searching your house or car without a warrant, consent, or probable cause. If your defense attorney can prove the evidence was not obtained legally, the prosecution will have no choice but to drop the charges because a conviction can rarely occur without evidence.
Sometimes law enforcement officers intimidate, threaten, or coerce witnesses into making a statement that is not true. Sometimes the testimony can mean the difference between having enough evidence to try a case and not having enough. If someone was intimidated, threatened, or coerced into making a statement benefitting the prosecution, your charges may get dropped. If you were pulled over and the officer had no probable cause, or reason to stop you, then everything the officer found or charged you with after that point is not valid.
If you’re charged with a felony, your defense lawyer may be able to attack the prosecution’s case by focusing on the “knowing” requirement. Unlike some types of strict liability crimes, where an action is a crime regardless of the defendant’s state of mind or intent, this “knowing” standard requires the prosecution to prove that you deliberately set out to break the law. If your defense counsel can show that you were either unaware there was marijuana in your possession (for example, borrowing a family member’s car with a baggie of marijuana in the glove compartment) or otherwise were not “knowing” in your actions, this may help you avoid criminal prosecution.
It’s important – particularly if you’re charged with a felony that could subject you to a mandatory minimum sentence – to seek legal counsel as quickly as possible.
Diversion programs for marijuana charges
Those who are age 18 or younger at the time of their arrest and who don’t already have a criminal record may qualify for a special probationary program to avoid conviction for marijuana and other drug charges.
Diversion programs may also be an option for adults charged with a misdemeanor marijuana offense, particularly for those without any prior criminal history. By consenting to a probation-type arrangement and adhering to the court’s requirements, you’ll eventually be able to have these charges dropped.
You need the right defense lawyer for marijuana charges
Even a single marijuana charge can derail your future. Florida’s drug laws are tough, and police and prosecutors love to make an example of drug offenders. The only way forward is to get a lawyer on your side who will fight your charges hard, whether that’s getting your charges dropped or dismissed or fighting for a Not Guilty verdict at trial.
The sooner you get an attorney involved, the better. The clock starts ticking the moment you’re arrested. Don’t face marijuana charges alone. Call or use the online contact form to discuss your situation with attorney Thomas C. Grajek.