Disclaimer: We do not represent snitches. If you are currently working for the police to bust other people, or you think you’ll help your case by doing so, please call another attorney. We will not help you get other people in trouble.
Marijuana law in Fort Walton Beach and throughout the State of Florida has changed considerably over the past few years. Many states allow for personal use exceptions where a small amount of marijuana is not a crime. Florida is different. Under Florida law, any possession of marijuana is illegal unless you have a medical use exemption. The Fort Walton Beach marijuana possession lawyers with Flaherty & Merrifield have the experience to help you fight the accusations against you.
Flaherty & Merrifield can help you fight your Fort Walton Beach Possession of Marijuana Charge
My name is Tim Flaherty. Since 2001, I have been defending clients accused of marijuana possession. As a lifetime member of NORML, I strongly believe in the legalization of marijuana for personal use. Along with my partner, Brandy Merrifield, we focus 100% of our practice on criminal defense in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County.
Whether you have been charged with a small amount for personal use, or a larger amount of marijuana, you need a team that keeps up with the constant changes in the law, knows the prosecutors and the judges, and has the experience required to avoid a conviction. Call our office today at (850) 716-1593 for a free consultation and let Brandy and I fight to keep a marijuana conviction off your record.
Defending Possession of Marijuana in Ft. Walton Beach
Possession defense is case specific and requires knowledge of the current law and the changes in the law. Possession defense also requires understanding the person charged and their goals for their future. At Flaherty & Merrifield, we explore not only legal defenses but also mitigation defenses to protect our client’s future.
Legal Defenses include motions, arguments, depositions, challenging evidence, and trials. Common legal defenses for possession of marijuana are a Motion to Suppress or Motion to Dismiss. A motion to suppress is a legal argument seeking to have the Court suppress (remove) evidence or statements from the case. Many times, a successful motion to suppress will result in a reduction in the charge or a dismissal. To learn more about a motion to suppress or other defenses to drug cases in Fort Walton Beach, click here.
A motion to dismiss is a legal mechanism to have the Court dismiss the possession charge. A motion to dismiss is generally appropriate where there are two or more people in the same location that the drugs are found.
Mitigation defenses are based on the person charged with possession of marijuana. These defenses can include a person’s background, lack of criminal history, military service, school awards, and career achievements. The purpose of a mitigation defense is to shed a human light on the person rather than the Court looking at them as another case number. Mitigation can be especially effective when negotiating for a reduced charge or a referral to Pretrial Diversion. Pretrial Diversion is an agreement between the person charged with the offense and the State. If the agreement is performed without any violations the result is a dismissal. For many clients, pretrial diversion is the best resolution because a dismissal allows for the record to be expunged once diversion has been completed. Pretrial diversion also provides protection from non-criminal sanctions of a drug conviction such as a driver’s license suspension and withholding of government aid.
There is no one size fits all strategy in defending possession of marijuana cases. Know your options and have a defense team that understands YOUR unique situation.
What is Marijuana Possession in Ft. Walton Beach?
Fla. Stat. 893.13(6)(a) states that any possession of marijuana, whether it’s actual or constructive possession, is illegal without a medical use exemption. That means that if you actually have marijuana on your person (actual possession) or you have the ability to reach and control the marijuana (constructive possession) you can be charged and convicted of possession of marijuana.
With the changes in the law and the addition of medical marijuana to Florida, marijuana can come in many forms and each type of marijuana has its own restrictions. The most common forms are flower and concentrates.
Flower is the common name for what most people know as bud, leafy green, or smokable marijuana. For smokable marijuana, Florida has broken the law into two portions. If you are accused of possessing less than 20 grams, the charge is a misdemeanor. However, possession of 20 grams or more of smokable or flower marijuana is a felony.
THC Oils and Vape Cartridges (Concentrates)
THC oil is the concentrated version of the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. THC is the chemical component of the bud that produces the “high” effect and alters a person’s perception and pleasure center of the brain. THC stimulates the brain to release dopamine which can result in a euphoric, relaxed feeling. Most THC oils are found in vape cartridges and used to smoke as vaporized marijuana. This is an effective method for medical marijuana because there is no distinguishable marijuana smell when smoking a THC vape.
Regardless of the size of the vape or the amount of THC oil remaining in the product, possession of a THC vape cartridge without a valid prescription is a felony. When it comes to THC oil, the amount does not matter. Possession of ANY amount is a felony. In addition, law enforcement can charge you with an additional misdemeanor offense of possession of narcotic equipment for the actual vape pen.
Penalties for Marijuana Conviction in Ft. Walton Beach
The penalties for possession of marijuana vary depending on the amount of marijuana. As I said earlier, possession of less than 20 grams is a first degree misdemeanor. Possession of 20 grams or more is a third degree felony.
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to 1 year probation
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- 6 month driver’s license suspension
- Substance abuse classes
- Community service
- Up to 5 years in prison
- Up to 5 years probation
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- 6 month driver’s license suspension
- Substance abuse classes
- Community service
What if I am accused of growing Marijuana in Fort Walton Beach?
Under Florida law, it is unlawful for any person to manufacture a controlled substance, including cannabis. It is also unlawful for a person to own, lease, or rent a structure for the purpose of allowing a marijuana grow house. Manufacturing is the production, preparation, packaging, labeling, cultivating, compounding, or growing of marijuana.
Generally, a person charged with growing marijuana may be charged with a third-degree felony with the same penalties listed above. However, in some cases, a grown house operation could result in a second-degree felony. A person who is cultivating or manufacturing marijuana as a grow house operation and is found in possession of more than 25 cannabis plants can be charged as a second-degree felony which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If minors are present or live on the premises of the grow operation, the charge is elevated to a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
A Marijuana Conviction Can Result in Non-Criminal Penalties
In addition to the criminal penalties for marijuana possession, there are several other collateral penalties that you may face. A conviction for possession of marijuana, or any drug, can result in the following:
- Denial of Student Financial Aid
- Denial of Federal Assistance Programs
- Denial of Housing
- Cancellation of Scholarships
- Denial of Basic Constitutional Rights (when charged and convicted of a felony amount)
If you are ready to fight your possession of marijuana charge, so are we. Flaherty & Merrifield has been defending adults, juveniles, locals, and vacationers charged with possession of marijuana since 2001. We know the stakes in a marijuana conviction and how to protect you and your future.
What is Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana came into effect in Florida in 2017, however, it was not until 2019 that local dispensaries started popping up in Fort Walton Beach and throughout Okaloosa County.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 381.986, Florida law defines marijuana as, “all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin, including low-THC cannabis, which are dispensed from a medical marijuana treatment center for medical use by a qualified patient.”
Medical marijuana is no different from the leafy green that most people associate marijuana with. Persons with a prescription for medical marijuana can still ingest via smoke, however, medical marijuana has a variety of ways to ingest and use the product based on the specific treatment sought.
Medical marijuana is a source of ever-changing legislation in Florida. While there is a medical use program, there are several restrictions for persons who hold a valid medical marijuana card.
Amendment 2, the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, provides that persons with a qualifying illness, may be approved for medical marijuana. Below is a non-exhaustive list of qualifying medical conditions that may qualify for the medical marijuana program:
- ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic muscle spasms or debilitating muscle diseases
While the list of approved medical conditions may vary, the result is the same. Once a person has been prescribed medical marijuana, they are issued credentials, provided with purchasing options, and are legal to smoke medical marijuana without the fear of an arrest. A lawful marijuana prescription allows for the prescribed person to purchase marijuana products in a variety of sources to include flower, pills, liquid, oil, vape, creams, and lotions. It is not unlawful for a person prescribed marijuana to have marijuana products on their person, however, there are restrictions and failure to abide by those restrictions could result in criminal charges.
Restrictions for Medical Marijuana License Holders
Cannabis must be purchased at a licensed state facility. These facilities are heavily regulated by the State Department of Health. Florida law requires that medical marijuana remain in its original packaging until it is consumed. Purchase limits for medical marijuana users are divided into the two main categories of cannabis possession, flower and concentrates.
- Flower: possession is limited to a 35-day supply. A 35-day supply consists of 4 ounces of flower or bud (any portion of the plant that is smokable).
- Concentrates: possession is limited to a 70-day supply. This includes edible marijuana products.
It is illegal to smoke marijuana in a public place or a place where smoking is prohibited indoors. Common examples of no-smoke zones are: schools, buses, aircraft, trains, a workplace (unless permitted), etc.
Operating a motor vehicle while smoking or after consuming marijuana in any fashion, regardless of whether you posses a prescription, is a crime. Impaired driving in any fashion is considered driving under the influence and could result in a misdemeanor conviction.
Federal Law and Florida Medical Marijuana
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That means if you have a valid Florida medical marijuana card, you are not protected outside the State of Florida. A Florida medical marijuana card is only valid within the State of Florida. It is unlawful to grow your own marijuana, even if you have a medical marijuana card. Any growth or transport to another state could result in federal drug charges.
Remember—even if the state you are traveling to has a medical marijuana registry and law, your Florida medical marijuana card is invalid in that state and if found with marijuana, you could be subjected to criminal charges.
NORML-What They Stand for and How We Support Their Mission
NORML is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. At Flaherty& Merrifield, we are lifetime members of NORML. NORML is a nationally recognized 501c3 nonprofit organization. Their mission is to influence public opinion towards legalizing responsible use of marijuana for adults and advocate for the health benefits of medicinal marijuana. NORML advocates for changes in state law to allow for decriminalization and legalization of marijuana for personal and medicinal use.
NORML does not promote all drug use. According to NORML, cannabis should be available in a safe environment and persons participating in cannabis use, whether recreationally or medicinally, should abide by strict principles.
NORML’s 5 Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use
- Adults Only: The responsible cannabis user does not provide cannabis to children.
- No Driving: The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired.
- Set and Setting: The responsible cannabis user carefully considers their setting, regulation, and usage amounts.
- Resist Abuse: The responsible cannabis user resists the urge to abuse cannabis.
- Respect the Rights of Others: The responsible cannabis user does not violate the rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy and public propriety, and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid cannabis.
At Flaherty & Merrifield, we support NORML’s mission to legalize recreational use of marijuana and allow for broader availability of medicinal marijuana.
Have You Been Arrested For a Drug Offense in Florida?
If you've been arrested for drug charges in Florida you need to speak with an experienced drug crimes attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Fort Walton Beach office directly at 850.243.6097 to schedule your free consultation.