2022 legislative session kicks off; several cannabis bills in play
Last month, the 2022 session for Florida’s legislature kicked off. Although this year is a short session that ends in just three months, lawmakers have already filed several cannabis-related proposals and many remain pending from the 2021 session.
While Florida voters enacted a medical cannabis program in 2014, Florida remains one of only 19 states that imposes jail time for simple possession.
In October 2021, Minority Leader Sen. Bobby Powell (D) sponsored S 470, which would reduce the penalty for possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis to a $100 fine plus court costs. The following month, Rep. Dotie Joseph (D) filed H 725, which reduces the penalty for possession of up to one ounce of cannabis to a $50 fine. And in December 2021, Rep. Mike Caruso (R) filed H 957, which would decriminalize possession of up to 20 grams. Each of these bills has been refiled for the 2022 legislative session.
Earlier this week, Sen. Gary Farmer (D) filed three measures that collectively propose a legal adult-use cannabis market in the Sunshine State. S 1658 would impose a 15% sales tax on cannabis sold at a retail store and tax sales of food or beverages containing cannabis sold by a marijuana consumption site at a rate of 19 cents per milligram of THC. The bill also provides that counties and municipalities can establish additional sales taxes of up to 3.75% of the sales price of cannabis sold at retail stores. Counties and municipalities would be allowed to impose an additional tax of up to 4 cents per milligram of THC on sales of food or beverages containing cannabis sold by consumption sites.
On the other side of the aisle, S 776 was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) in the 2021 session. The proposal would legalize possession of up to four ounces and has also been reintroduced for the 2022 session.
Separately, there are three additional legalization measures that remain pending in the House that were introduced during the 2021 session.
Possession of small amounts is illegal: Possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. Possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis is a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Sale or delivery qualifies as a felony: Sale or delivery within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, or other specified area is a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000. The sale of 25 pounds or less of cannabis is a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000. However, the delivery of 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000.
Medical marijuana is permitted: An individual may register as a medical marijuana patient if his or her doctor certifies that the individual suffers from one or more of the following conditions:
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above
Post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification
Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying medical condition
To qualify, a patient must be a permanent or seasonal resident of Florida, be entered into the medical marijuana use registry, and obtain a medical marijuana ID card. You can learn more about the requirements to become a patient here. Patients can purchase marijuana from registered marijuana dispensaries, called Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs). Click here to search for an MMTC near you.
Decriminalization policies adopted across Florida
Since June 2015, a new trend has taken root across Florida — several cities and counties have passed similar ordinances that give officers the discretion to replace arrests for possession of under 20 grams of cannabis with citations. These jurisdictions include Miami-Dade County, Tampa, Key West, Orlando, and Sarasota.
For example, Orlando decriminalized small amounts of cannabis by allowing police officers to give out citations instead of making arrests. If you possess 20 grams of cannabis or less or have cannabis paraphernalia, an officer can choose to give you a citation with a $100 fine if you're a first-time offender, or a $200 fine for a second offense. Repeat offenders can get a fine of up to $500 and a court appearance.
1978: The Florida Legislature enacted the Therapeutic Research Program, which was never operational. The program would have required federal permission and would have involved pharmacies dispensing marijuana to cancer and glaucoma patients. It was repealed in 1984.
1991: In Jenks v. State, the First District Court of Appeals allowed two seriously ill HIV/AIDS patients to raise a medical necessity defense to marijuana cultivation and drug paraphernalia charges. The court found that the defendants had met the burden of establishing the defense at trial and reversed the trial court’s judgment and acquitted the defendants.
1998: The same First District Court of Appeals upheld the medical necessity defense again in Sowell v. State, even after the legislature made a slight change to its Schedule I statutory language that was unfriendly to the use of medical marijuana.
2012: Simultaneous bills HJR 353 and SJR 1028, a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana in Florida, were introduced by Rep. Jeff Clemens (D – Lake Worth) and Sen. Larcenia J. Bullard (D – Miami) but never voted on. This marked the first time that medical marijuana bills were filed in both the House and the Senate.
2014: The “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014” allows specified physicians to issue orders for certain patients, allowing them to use low-THC cannabis, which is defined as having no more than 0.8% THC and more than 10% CBD. It requires the Department of Health to create a registry of patients and to authorize five organizations to grow and dispense the cannabis. Requiring doctors to issue “written orders” rather than recommendations or certifications puts them at risk under federal law.
Advocates were able to get a medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot. Since it was a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% or more of the vote to pass. Unfortunately, it only got 57.6%.
Alarming news! Tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., the Florida Senate Rules Committee will hear SJR 1412. If enacted, SJR 1412 would severely limit the rights of citizens to participate in democracy through the ballot initiative process! If the proposal becomes law, it will prevent a ballot measure on cannabis legalization.