The legal landscape surrounding cannabis is changing more rapidly than the Miami skyline, and new legislation is expanding the scope of marijuana use in Florida. This, however, doesn’t mean residents of the Sunshine State are in the clear…yet. There are many restrictions on who can buy and sell marijuana in the state. There are also restrictions on the type of cannabis products that are available for purchase. While this should not be considered legal advice, we’ve formulated a guide to help you better answer the big question: Is marijuana legal in Florida?
Covid’s Impact on Medical Marijuana in Florida
Deemed essential, Florida dispensaries, officially known as Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs), have remained open throughout the Covid outbreak, and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) has continued to process MMJ registry card applications. The OMMU encourages patients to practice social distancing, practice good hygiene, and utilize the delivery and curbside pickup services provided by a licensed MMTC.
How to Qualify for Medical Marijuana in Florida
Florida has recently repealed its ban on the use of medical marijuana. In 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 8A into law. This law allows the use of medical marijuana for qualified patients. According to the law, qualifying conditions include:
- Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus.
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- Crohn’s disease.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- A medical condition of the same kind or class as or comparable to the others listed.
- A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician.
- Chronic nonmalignant pain.
To complete Florida’s MMJ application, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with a qualified physician. Once you receive a qualifying diagnosis, you can register with the state and continue the application process online or by mail, though the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use prefers the online option. The fee to register as a medical marijuana patient is $75. Marijuana may only be purchased from a licensed MMTC. The state prohibits cannabis home grows.
Florida Cannabis Consumption Rules
In 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 182 which repealed the previous ban on smokable medical marijuana. OMMU defined the new rule in the following statement: “The qualified physician must determine that smoking is an appropriate route of administration for medical marijuana and have the patient sign an updated consent form before placing an order for medical marijuana in a form for smoking for the patient in the Medical Marijuana Use Registry.” Medical cannabis patients are now permitted to receive up to 2.5 ounces of whole flower cannabis every 35 days. They may not possess more than 4 ounces at any given time. Patients under the age of 18 must have a terminal disease and receive the additional approval of a pediatrician to receive smokable cannabis. On August 27, 2020, OMMU authorized an emergency rule allowing qualified physicians to approve the consumption of edibles as an appropriate route of cannabis administration and registered MMTCs to distribute edibles to patients. The consumption of cannabis in any of the following places constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor:
- in plain view or in a place open to the general public
- in a school bus, vehicle, aircraft, or boat
- on school grounds
Patients can consume cannabis in a private residence with the property owner’s permission.
Is Recreational Marijuana Legal in Florida?
Simply put, recreational marijuana is illegal in Florida. According to Florida Statutes, 775.082 and 775.083, possession or sale without remuneration of 20 grams or less of cannabis is a misdemeanor offense with a penalty of up to one year in prison and carries a maximum fine of $1000. Possession of paraphernalia is also a misdemeanor with the same maximum sentence. The possession or sale of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a felony. This applies to both dry cannabis and live plants. Sentences increase based on the volume of marijuana. For example, possession of less than 25 pounds of marijuana or 25 cannabis plants carries up to a 5-year sentence and a $5000 fine. Possession of 2000 pounds or more is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $50,000 with a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years. It is a felony to possess or sell hash or marijuana concentrates. The maximum penalty is 5 years in prison and a fine of $5000. A controlled substance conviction also results in a one-year driver’s license suspension according to Florida Statute 322.055. CBD has gained massive traction since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill which formally removed hemp from the list of Schedule I controlled substances. In 2019, the state of Florida followed suit and passed Senate Bill 1020 to establish a state hemp program and define its parameters. According to the bill: “‘Hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a total delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration that does not exceed 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Hemp produced in accordance with this section is not cannabis as defined in s. 893.02.” To put it more simply, CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight to be considered legal. You can purchase these products without a prescription or medical marijuana ID because hemp CBD is non-psychoactive and only contains trace amounts of THC.
Federal Marijuana Laws
While many states have moved to expand the legality of medical and recreational marijuana, it still remains illegal to possess or distribute marijuana by federal law. According to the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance. Substances in this category are considered to have no medical benefits and a high potential for abuse. Clearly the 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana disagree with this categorization. Previously, cannabis users and businesses could be federally penalized even if they were operating within state law. Luckily for these states, a congressional amendment, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized medical marijuana. Interstate marijuana commerce is still prohibited.
Recent and Future Developments
Certain jurisdictions within Florida have moved to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. For example, Miami-Dade County passed a resolution that allows law enforcement officers to issue a civil citation and a $100 fine in lieu of a misdemeanor for possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less. This is at the officer’s discretion. Similar ordinances have been passed in Key West, Orlando, and other counties. If you’re interested in legal cannabis in Florida, you may soon be in luck. Make It Legal Florida, a cannabis rights group, is circulating a petition to have an amendment added to the 2020 ballot. If this petition receives 766,200 signatures, the amendment would require a 60% approval to legalize recreational marijuana for users over the age of 21. No, recreational marijuana is not legal in Florida. There are severe penalties for the possession and sale of non-medical marijuana. This may not be the case forever, though. Legislators and the general public are increasingly interested in the positive social and economic impacts of marijuana legalization. If you’re a Florida voter, make sure to check out the proposed amendment and don’t forget to vote!
Florida Marijuana Laws: A Timeline
June 2015-December 2019 – The following Florida jurisdictions have passed ordinances decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis: Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach, Key West, West Palm Beach, Broward County, Palm Beach County, Volusia County, Tampa, Orlando, Osceola County, Alachua County, Port Ritchie, Sarasota City. June 2017 – The Medical Use of Marijuana Act goes into effect, authorizing the manufacture and sale of medical cannabis by licensed businesses and medical marijuana use by registered patients. March 2019 – Gov. DeSantis signs SB 182, repealing the previous ban on smokeable cannabis. January 2020 – Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) introduces bill SB 1860, which would legalize cannabis for adults 21 years and older. The bill dies in the state Senate in March 2020. August 2020 – The Florida Department of Health authorizes an emergency rule legalizing the sale and use of edibles.