Florida legalizes medical marijuana. Is decriminalization next?

Medical marijuana was recently legalized in Florida. Some areas in the state have decriminalized the possession of pot.

In recent years, several states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical and sometimes recreational use. Florida is one of the latest states to follow suit, with a medical marijuana law recently being passed and some jurisdictions permitting lesser penalties for possessing small amounts of the drug. These recent developments raise the question of whether it may be better to stop prosecuting those who use marijuana for recreational purposes.

Current marijuana penalties in Florida are harsh

Marijuana proponents believe that the consequences for marijuana possession and cultivation are some of the strictest in the country. According to the marijuana legalization group NORML, some of the penalties for getting caught for cannabis cultivation, possession or intoxication include the following:

· Misdemeanor charge with up to one year in jail and $1,000 fine for possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana

· Up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for a felony charge of possessing between 25 grams and 2,000 pounds of marijuana

· Significantly increased penalties for subsequent charges, cultivation or using the drug close to a school or near children

Florida residents enduring chronic pain, cancer treatments and other conditions that are difficult to manage have recently celebrated a triumph. In November, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, medical marijuana was legalized in the state. Additionally, many areas throughout Florida - including Miami-Dade County, Key West, Orlando and Tampa - are treating the possession of small amounts of pot as a minor offense, rather than a criminal act. Those found to have possession of 20 grams or less may receive a citation instead.

The decriminalization discussion continues

Many continue to argue for decriminalizing marijuana, if not legalizing recreational use outright. The Banner lists numerous possible benefits to decriminalization. For example, reducing possession and trafficking charges might lessen the burden on overcrowded prisons and put a better use to state taxes. Law enforcement could direct their attention to more serious and necessary matters, such as violent crimes. Proponents also point out that when recreational pot users and small dealers are penalized, larger and often violent drug groups are not brought to justice. Additionally, states may bring in tax revenue and reduce crime if recreational marijuana is permitted and regulated.

The future of marijuana legislation in Florida remains to be seen. However, the fact remains that those who are facing drug charges have the right to be treated fairly in court. It may be beneficial to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney after receiving charges.