Chart Shows Marijuana Is Cheap in Florida Despite High Maximum Possession Sentence

October 4, 2011 by David S. Seltzer

I was interested to see a chart on marijuana possession laws recently published by Wired magazine. The chart is really a map of the United States, colored to show the average price of an ounce of marijuana in different areas. Labels for certain states give the maximum fine and jail time for being caught in possession of “low levels” of marijuana. This certainly differs between states. However, it’s interesting to see the wide variation of sentences available for the same crime in different areas — as low as a $100 fine with no jail time in some states, and as high as $1,150 or up to a year in jail in others. Florida is not singled out in this chart, but as a south Florida drug possession defense attorney, I know how our state stacks up — and it’s disappointing.

Here in Florida, simple possession of marijuana can be divided into two categories. Possession of 20 grams or fewer — about three-fourths of an ounce — is a misdemeanor crime carrying up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. This puts our state at the high end of the scale of penalties on the Wired chart. Of those listed, only Delaware has a higher fine, and only two states, Rhode Island and South Dakota, have maximum jail sentences as long. Of course, these are the maximum penalties. In real life, Florida defendants, and probably defendants in many other states, don’t necessarily face the maximum. For first offense with a relatively clean background, a defendant may get probation, community service or both, plus a driver’s license suspension. However, probation is not necessarily a light penalty — it severely restricts your movements and your freedom of association, and of course you must pass random drug tests. Repeat offenders are more likely to face the full year in jail. And if you’re caught in possession of more than 20 grams, even if it’s only an ounce (about 32 grams), the maximum penalty is up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Defendants in both categories may be eligible for a drug diversion program (also known as Drug Court), but it generally helps to have an experienced Miami-Dade narcotics criminal defense lawyer on your side.

Personally, I believe marijuana should be legalized. In my work as a Fort Lauderdale drug crimes defense attorney, I see clients going to jail for offenses that harmed no one, except perhaps their health. Not only is this a waste of many individual lives, but it’s a waste of public resources, clogging the courts and the prisons for no real benefit to society. If marijuana were legalized and regulated in the way that alcohol is, the authorities would be able to control harmful behaviors like DUI while allowing responsible adults to consume it safely. As it currently stands, Florida residents face high penalties for simple marijuana possession, even though, as the Wired chart shows, marijuana is widely available enough to drive the price down through much of central Florida. Floridians caught with marijuana should get in touch with an experienced marijuana defense lawyer as soon as possible.

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges for possession of marijuana or any other drug offense, you should call Seltzer Law, P.A. as soon as possible. For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, you can reach us 24 hours a day and seven days a week at 1-88-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) or send us an email.

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