Florida law permits the possession and use of “medical marijuana,” but the state continues to outlaw any recreational or unlicensed possession, sale, or distribution of marijuana. In fact, the illegal possession of less than an ounce (20 grams or more) is still a felony in Florida.
Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa has extensive experience representing Floridians charged with marijuana-related crimes. We have often heard people say they were surprised that the amount of weed that had in their house was enough for them to be charged with a felony. We want everyone to understand Florida’s marijuana prohibition laws before they learn about them the hard way, after arrests.
Florida Penalties Increase with Amounts of Marijuana Involved
As with other drug-related crimes, the criminal penalties for a person found guilty of illegal possession, sale, manufacture, or trafficking of marijuana increase progressively with the amount of marijuana involved.
Even relatively small amounts of pot can lead to
serious felony charges and long prison sentences.
Other factors can also affect how even a few grams of marijuana may be charged as a felony. For example, selling, delivering, or possessing with intent to sell or deliver any amount of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school enables the state to file a 2nd-degree felony possession charge carrying up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Counties Where Small Amount of Marijuana is Only a Civil Offense
As many jurisdictions around the country take steps to decriminalize or minimize the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana, several Florida counties have enacted ordinances making possession of fewer than 20 grams of pot a civil offense with a $100 fine. However, police still have the discretion to charge a state misdemeanor. These are the counties with civil penalty ordinances:
- Miami-Date County
- Broward County
- Palm Beach County
- Miami Beach
- Hallandale Beach
- Key West
- West Palm Beach
- Volusia County
- Osceola County
- Alachua County
- Port Richey
- Cocoa Beach
Neither Hillsborough nor Pinellas Counties are on the list. So, if you are arrested for any marijuana offense in the Tampa or St. Petersburg area, the Stechschulte Nell Law Firm is ready to step up to defend you.
Felony Possession of Marijuana in Florida
Any possession of marijuana in Florida is illegal unless the person in possession holds a valid Florida state medical marijuana patient card or is licensed as an authorized marijuana treatment center. However, Florida police and prosecutors will file criminal charges even against patients holding valid state medical marijuana cards if their marijuana was not purchased from one of the state’s authorized marijuana treatment centers.
Possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less is a 1st-degree misdemeanor with a possible jail sentence of up to 1 year and a $1,000 fine. The state will also suspend the defendant’s driver’s license for one year.
Any illegal possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a felony in Florida. The penalties for possessing various amounts of pot are set out below:
- More than 20 grams but less than 25 lbs. (3rd-degree felony) up to 5 years in prison and a $ 5,000 fine,
- More than 25 lbs. but less than 2000 lbs. (2nd-degree felony) mandatory minimum of 3 years in prison and up to 15 years in prison with a $ 25,000 fine,
- More than 2000 lbs. but less than 10,000 lbs. (1st-degree felony) mandatory minimum of 7 years in prison and – 30 years in prison with a $ 50,000,
- Possessing 10,000 lbs. or more (1st-degree felony) mandatory a minimum of 15 years in prison and up to 30 years in prison and a $ 200,000 fine.
Note About Mandatory Minimum Sentences: You may notice that several marijuana offenses carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. When convicted of one of these offenses, the sentencing judge has no choice but to impose a sentence on the defendant of at least the required minimum number of years to serve in prison.
Florida eliminated parole and prisoners must serve 85% of
their sentence to become eligible for early release consideration.
Possession of Marijuana Plants (Manufacturing)
- Having fewer than 25 plants is still a 3rd-degree felony, with a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $ 5,000 fine,
- 25 – 300 plants (2nd-degree felony) penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a $ 10,000 fine,
- 300 – 2,000 plants (2nd-degree felony) mandatory minimum of 3 years in prison and up to 15 years in prison and a $ 25,000 fine,
- 2000 – 10,000 plants (1st-degree felony) mandatory minimum of 7 years in prison and up to 30 years in prison and a $ 50,000 fine
Sale or Delivery of Marijuana in Florida
The illegal sale or delivery of any drug is generally seen to be a social scourge. As a result, criminal penalties for “drug dealers” are severe. The only exception in Florida law is in situations when someone delivers a small amount of marijuana (less than 20 grams) without the expectation of payment in return. The intent of the law is to prosecute more leniently those who give small amounts of weed to friends or family. Florida law treats such a transaction as a misdemeanor for the deliverer and imposes a maximum penalty of up to 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Illegal sale or delivery (for payment) of any amount of marijuana is a felony in Florida. The amount of marijuana involved determines the penalty the defendant will face:
- 25 lbs. or less of marijuana is a 3rd-degree felony — Penalty up to 5 years in prison and a $ 5,000 fine
- More than 25 lbs. but less than 2,000 lbs. (or 300 to 2000 plants) is a 2nd-degree felony with a 3-year mandatory minimum prison sentence and up to 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine,
- More than 2,000 lbs. but less than 10,000 lbs. (or 2000 to 10,000 plants) – 1st-degree felony with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 7 years and up to 30 years with a $50,000 fine,
- 10,000 lbs. or more is also a 1st-degree felony, but with a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence and up to 30 years in prison and a $ 200,000 fine
Defending Felony Marijuana Charges in Florida
The prosecution must prove each of the crimes we’ve discussed above with evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There are no shortcuts for the state.
At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we have developed defense strategies and tactics over many years that challenge the prosecution’s ability to win a conviction.
- Was the evidence obtained legally?
- Did the police have a search warrant?
- Was the search warrant valid and supported by probable cause?
- Did the police exceed the authority of the search warrant?
- Were the defendant’s arrest procedures and interrogation illegal?
- Did the police obtain witness testimony through deals with criminals trying to reduce their sentence?
- Is there proof that the defendant had either joint or exclusive dominion and control over the premises?
And much more . . . These questions just scratch the surface of how a drug case is expertly defended.
Learn More > Types of Marijuana Charges in Florida
Get Experienced Marijuana Criminal Defense
If you have been charged with felony possession, distributing, or manufacturing marijuana, you need experienced drug crime attorneys on your side. Call Stechschulte Nell today for a case review at 813-280-1244. We will work to mitigate the charges that you face.