Last Update: February 28, 2014
2014 could be the year Florida finally protects medical marijuana patients
2014 is shaping up to be a banner year for marijuana policy reform in Florida as there are many exciting efforts underfoot. An initiative to create a constitutional amendment allowing for medical marijuana will be on November’s ballot, which has sparked a debate on the issue in the legislature, and a handful of bills have been introduced to bring needed reform to Florida’s outdated marijuana laws.
Shortly after the Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for the medical marijuana ballot initiative to appear on the November ballot, lawmakers in Tallahassee took note and introduced a flurry of legislation to sensibly reform the Sunshine State’s marijuana laws.
A bill to allow patients with devastating seizure disorders to use high CBD marijuana was the first to be filed. While this bill is an improvement on the status quo, it will also leave many patients without access to effective medicine. Thankfully Sen. Jeff Clemens and Rep. Joe Saunders realized this flaw and have introduced comprehensive medical marijuana legislation that would finally bring Florida in line with the growing list of compassionate states that treat, not jail, patients. Please email your lawmakers and ask them to support comprehensive medical marijuana program.
Bill introduced to legalize, regulate marijuana
Florida's penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana are among the nation's toughest. Sadly, the damages caused by these draconian criminal laws are disproportionately placed on Florida’s African American population. According to a study by the ACLU, African Americans in Florida are over four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as their white neighbors.
While Florida continues to harshly punish marijuana users, St. Pete's Polls found that 58.8% of Floridians “think that marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol and be made legal for any adult to use.” Rep. Randolph Bracy introduced legislation that would replace marijuana prohibition with reasonable regulations, allowing Florida to control who is selling marijuana, where, and to whom. HB 1039 would generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenues while striking an economic blow to the criminal organizations that currently monopolize the marijuana market. Please ask your lawmakers to support enacting a more sensible approach to marijuana policy. Finally, if you are a victim of marijuana prohibition and would like to help reform the current laws, please let us know.
To receive news about Florida marijuana policy reform as it happens, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service, if you haven't done so already.
Courts reject suspicionless drug testing law
The 2011 law signed by Gov. Scott requiring new applicants for temporary welfare assistance funded by the TANF to undergo, and pay for out of pocket, mandatory and suspicionless drug tests continues to face many welcome challenges and bad press. The ACLU sued to enjoin implementation of the law, and it was temporarily suspended in October 2011. A federal court of appeals upheld the decision.
The state has appealed that decision, and a hearing is expected in the coming months. In the meantime, early reports indicate that the law, when it was in effect, ended up costing the state more money than it saved, which is ironic considering cost savings was an argument used to justify the need for the law.
Court established defense
Despite the fact that a medical necessity defense has been established by Florida case law, patients remain at risk of being arrested and jailed because legislators have yet to enact a medical marijuana law. To review a 1991 case that outlines Florida's medical necessity defense, click here.
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project. If you have any questions concerning the status of marijuana policy reform in Florida, you can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.