Florida Lawmakers Debate Decriminalization and Other Cannabis Bills

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Now well into regulating medical marijuana and potentially preparing to vote on recreational cannabis in 2020, Florida lawmakers are putting more effort than ever into reforming state cannabis laws. From decriminalization to reworking the state’s medical marijuana licensing process, lawmakers are going to be debating on at least five new cannabis bills in the near future. 

Decriminalization by Relaxing Minimum Sentences and Criminal Penalties 

House Bill 339 aims to reduce minimum sentences for marijuana crimes, giving judges the ability to be more lenient on certain cannabis sale and trafficking offenses. The law would still include sentencing guidelines, but it would give judges the discretion to determine specific penalties on a case-by-case basis. It also increases the number of grams required to be charged for certain offenses. 

Similarly, HB 25 would decriminalize possession of anything up to 20 grams of cannabis. While many counties in the state have taken it upon themselves to decriminalize, this is the first time it is being considered by the state legislature. It would allow adults and juveniles in possession of cannabis and THC products to be eligible for a civil citation or diversion programs, rather than being charged with a misdemeanor. 

“Making our communities equitable and safer starts with ensuring that people have a fair shot. Floridians need reform of cannabis laws, and we will make sure we end the injustice of overcriminalization,” Tweeted Representative Shevrin Jones of Broward County. 

Changing How the FDOH Licenses Cannabis Businesses and Selling More Edibles

On another front, HB 149 aims to redefine who the Florida Department of Health hands out business licenses to, as far as growers and dispensaries are concerned. The bill would lift current limits on the number of applicants that can be licensed and remove the cap of 25 facilities per license. The idea behind this is that by allowing more businesses, the high cost of medical marijuana will drop, providing greater access for more patients. 

Another bill introduced in the Senate, SB 212, would revise the state’s definition of edibles and low-THC cannabis products, as well as marijuana and marijuana delivery devices. Mostly, this language revision is only to include medical marijuana retail facilities and medical marijuana treatment centers as legal places to obtain those products (which changed with the implementation of Amendment 2, which overrode the state’s Charlotte’s Web low-THC only law). 

SB 212 would also make it illegal for qualified physicians and caregivers to have any economic interest in a medical marijuana retail facility of any kind. It would also allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana delivery devices (vaporizers, pipes, etc.) and edibles under a new list of requirements. If passed, the state would start licensing additional retail facilities in August 2020. These facilities would have to work with only one of the state’s various treatment centers to obtain and sell their products – but, they would be a separate entity from the existing treatment centers. 

Officially Banning Smoking and Vaping in Florida State Parks 

While the rest of the pieces of legislation being considered would make major changes to the state’s cannabis policies, SB 670 is a bit different – making it illegal to smoke or vape anything (tobacco, marijuana, e-liquids, etc.) within state parks. This is not the first time this year a bill like this was introduced, but that doesn’t mean it won’t gain traction this time around now that Miami has passed a similar law in the city. 

If passed, people who violated the new law by smoking or vaping in the parks would be required to pay a $25 fine or complete 10 hours of community service and the law would go into effect in the summer of 2020. Overall, there are many potential changes coming to the landscape of Florida’s marijuana laws – and for the most part, it appears to be for the better. With more than 60 percent of voters in favor of legalization, it is good to see the state legislature taking the first natural step and finally considering decriminalization statewide.

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