Cannabis in Florida
Cannabis in Florida is illegal for recreational use. Possession of up to 20 grams is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $1000, and the suspension of one's driver's license. Several cities and counties have enacted reforms to apply lesser penalties, however.
Medical use was legalized in 2016 by way of a constitutional amendment. Appearing on the ballot as Amendment 2, the initiative was approved with 71% of the vote.
- 1 The Victor Licata case
- 2 Medical use
- 3 County and municipal reforms
- 4 References
The Victor Licata case
On October 16, 1933, 21-year-old Victor Licata used an axe to murder his parents, two brothers, and a sister while they were asleep. Despite evidence Licata had a pre-existing history of mental illness, police and the press made unattributed claims that he was "addicted" to marijuana. On October 17, 1933, the Tampa Bay Times wrote:
W. D. Bush, city chief detective, said he had made an investigation prior to the crime and learned the slayer had been addicted to smoking marihuana cigarettes for more than six months.
However, a day later the Chief of Tampa Police Department downplayed the role the drug had in the murders, although he pledged himself to the cause of marijuana prohibition:
Maybe the weed only had a small indirect part in the alleged insanity of the youth, but I am declaring now and for all time that the increasing use of this narcotic must stop and will be stopped." (October 18, 1933) 
[I]t may or may not be wholly true that the pernicious marijuana cigarette is responsible for the murderous mania of a Tampa young man in exterminating all the members of his family within his reach — but whether or not the poisonous mind-wrecking weed is mainly accountable for the tragedy its sale should not be and should never have been permitted here or elsewhere.
CBD oil legalized (2014)
On June 16, 2014, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Senate Bill 1030, the "Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act". The bill allowed the use of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil produced from the strain of cannabis known as Charlotte's Web. Qualifying conditions allowed under the bill were epilepsy, cancer, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It passed the House 111–7 and Senate 30–9.
Failed initiative, Amendment 2 (2014)
In 2013, supporters of a constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis began collecting signature to place the issue on the 2014 ballot. The group United for Care turned in 745,613 of the required 683,149 signatures, and on January 27, 2014, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled 4-3 that the initiative had successfully qualified. Appearing on the ballot as Amendment 2, the initiative ultimately failed with 57.6% of the vote (this was short of the 60% supermajority required for constitutional amendments in Florida). Contributing to its defeat was casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who donated $5.5 million to the initiative's opposition campaign. The main sponsor in support of the initiative was attorney John Morgan, who spent close to $4 million.
Approved initiative, Amendment 2 (2016)
In 2016, a second attempt was made to pass a constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis in Florida. Appearing on the ballot as Amendment 2, the initiative was approved on November 8, 2016, by a vote of 71.3% for versus 28.7% against. The initiative legalized the use of cannabis with a doctor's recommendation for treatment of: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualified medical condition, or other comparable debilitating medical conditions.
Under Amendment 2, a patient can access medical cannabis if a physician determines that the benefits of the drug would likely outweigh the potential health risks. Initially, under Florida regulations smoking the medication was not allowed; instead the product could be consumed as edibles or by vaping, oils, sprays, or pills. However, on May 25, 2018, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the ban on smoking was unconstitutional. That ruling was appealed by the administration of Gov. Rick Scott, but the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped the appeal and asked for the legislature to lift the restriction. A bill that removed the prohibition on smoking was signed into law in March 2019.
County and municipal reforms
Miami-Dade County (2015)
In June 2015, Miami-Dade County commissioners approved by a 10–3 vote a plan to allow civil citations to be issued for possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis. Persons issued a citation are required to pay a $100 fine or perform two days of community service.
Broward County (2015)
In November 2015, Broward County commissioners approved by a unanimous vote a plan to allow civil citations to be issued for possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis. The penalty was set at $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second, and $500 for a third.
Palm Beach County (2015)
In December 2015, Palm Beach County commissioners approved by a 4–1 vote a plan to allow civil citations to be issued for possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis. First and second offenses are punishable by a $100 fine; a third offense cannot be cited. Instead of a fine, cited individuals can opt for 10 hours of community service.
In March 2016, Tampa city council approved by a 5–1 vote a plan to allow civil citations to be issued for possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis. The penalty was set at $75 for a first offense, $150 for a second, and $300 for a third.
In May 2016, Orlando city council approved by a 4–3 vote a plan to allow civil citations to be issued for possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis. The penalty was set at $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second. As an alternative, eight hours of drug education or community service can be substituted. The program went into effect in October 2016.
Other cities and counties that have approved decriminalization ordinances are: Miami Beach (2015), Hallandale Beach (2015), Key West (2015), West Palm Beach (2015), Volusia County (2016), Osceola County (2016), Alachua County (2016), Port Richey (2016), Cocoa Beach (2019), and Sarasota (2019).
- "Florida Laws & Penalties". NORML. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
- Sloman. Reefer madness: the history of marijuana in America. p. 61.
- Sloman. Reefer madness: the history of marijuana in America. p. 62.
- "Licata Newspaper Articles and References". Uncle Mike's Library. June 25, 2009. Archived from the original on February 24, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- Cotterell, Bill (June 16, 2014). "Florida governor signs law allowing limited medical marijuana use". Reuters. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Larrabee, Brandon (June 16, 2014). "Governor Scott Signs Medical Marijuana Bill". WFOR. The News Service of Florida. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Klas, Mary Ellen (June 16, 2014). "Gov. Rick Scott signs 'Charlotte's Web' medical marijuana bill". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Smith, Nancy (June 15, 2014). "Bill Signing Makes Florida 22nd State to Pass Medical Marijuana Legislation". Sunshine State News. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Cotterell, Bill (January 27, 2014). "Florida's top court puts medical marijuana initiative on November ballot". Reuters. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Sweeney, Dan (November 7, 2014). "Medical marijuana: On the ballot in 2016?". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- Hamilton, Keegan (October 26, 2016). "Weed Killers | Here's who's bankrolling the fight against legal marijuana". Vice News. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- "Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, Amendment 2 (2014)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
- "Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization, Amendment 2 (2016)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
- Lewis, Jackson (June 27, 2017). "Florida Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Law". JD Supra. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
- "Florida: Court Strikes Down Legislative Ban On Medical Cannabis Smoking". NORML. May 31, 2018. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
- "Florida: Governor Demands Lawmakers Lift Ban On Smoked Cannabis". NORML. January 24, 2019. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
- "Senate Bill 182 (2019) - The Florida Senate". flsenate.gov. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Hanks, Douglas (June 30, 2015). "Miami-Dade adopts $100 fine for pot possession". Miami Herald. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
- Wallman, Brittany (November 11, 2015). "Broward downgrades penalty for pot possession". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
- Washington, Wayne (December 15, 2015). "Palm Beach County's new pot law: $100 fine for holding about ¾-ounce". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
- Swisher, Skyler (December 15, 2015). "Palm Beach County eases penalty for marijuana possession". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
- Danielson, Richard (March 17, 2016). "Tampa City Council okays civil fines for small amounts of marijuana". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
- Weiner, Jeff (May 9, 2016). "Orlando OKs citations for marijuana possession in small amounts". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
- Cordeiro, Monivette (May 9, 2016). "Orlando City Council adopts use of civil citations for marijuana, but with some changes". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
- Cox, Billy (September 3, 2019). "Sarasota votes to decriminalize small amount of marijuana". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
- "Decriminalization is sweeping Florida — one city at a time". Marijuana Policy Project. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
- "Florida Local Decriminalization". NORML. Retrieved August 6, 2019.