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Cannabis

Under Florida law, certain drugs and chemical substances, including cannabis. are by law known as “controlled substances.” The elements of trafficking in cannabis under § 893.135(1)(a), Fla. Stat., require proof of the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The Defendant knowingly possessed, sold, purchased, manufactured, delivered or brought into Florida a certain substance.
  • The substance was cannabis.
  • The cannabis weighed more than 25 pounds or constituted 300 or more cannabis plants.

Cannabis is defined under § 893.02(3), Fla. Stat., 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. Cannabis is often called marijuana, pot or weed. 

The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. in West Palm Beach, FL, represent clients charged with serious drug trafficking offenses, including the trafficking of marijuana in Palm Beach County. If you were charged with a trafficking crime under Florida Statute § 893.135(1)(a), then call us to discuss your case. Call (561) 557-8686 today if you need an experienced marijuana defense attorney in West Palm Beach for any felony case in Palm Beach County, FL. Let us put our experience to work for you.  


The Cannabis-Related Prescription Defense

In 2014, the legislature passed laws pertaining to medical marijuana, also known as “low-THC cannabis,” which is excluded from the definition of “cannabis” in § 893.02(3), Fla. Stat. The term “low-THC cannabis is defined in § 381.986(1)(b), Fla. Stat.

Under this statutory scheme, “low-THC cannabis” must be manufactured, possessed, sold, purchased, delivered, distributed, or dispensed in conformance with § 381.986, Fla. Stat. A special jury instruction is necessary in cases where a defendant relies on a cannabis-related prescription defense.   

The jury instruction for Trafficking in Cannabis under § 893.135(1)(a), Fla. Stat., can be found at 25.9.


Defenses for Lack of Knowledge in Cannabis Trafficking Cases

Under § 893.101(2) and (3), Fla. Stat., it is an affirmative defense if the defendant lacks knowledge of the illicit nature of the cannabis. This defense applies when there is evidence that the defendant:

  1. did not know of the presence of the substance; or
  2. knew of the presence of the substance, but did not know of its illicit nature. 

The lack of knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is a defense to Trafficking in Cannabis. If the defendant raises the defense, the jury is permitted to infer that the defendant was aware of the illicit nature of the controlled substance if the jury finds that he or she knew of the presence of the substance and exercised control or ownership over the substance. See McMillon v. State, 813 So. 2d 56 (Fla. 2002).

Also, the jury is permitted to infer that a person who sells a controlled substance knows of its illicit nature. If the jury has a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant knew of the illicit nature of the controlled substance, then the jury should find his or her not guilty of Trafficking in Cannabis. See State v. Weller, 590 So. 2d 923 (Fla. 1991).


Enhanced Penalties for Trafficking in Cannabis

Under § 893.135(1)(a)1.–3., Fla. Stat., certain enhanced penalties apply to the crime of Trafficking in Cannabis if it is proven that:  

  1. The cannabis weighed more than 25 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds or constituted 300 or more cannabis plants but not more than 2,000 cannabis plants.
  2. The cannabis weighed 2,000 pounds or more but less than 10,000 pounds or constituted 2,000 or more cannabis plants but not more than 10,000 cannabis plants.
  3. The cannabis weighed 10,000 pounds or more. or constituted 10,000 or more cannabis plants.

The mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking in marijuana include:

  • 25 lbs. to 2,000 lbs.; or 300 to 2,000 cannabis plants – 3 years prison and a $25,000 fine;
  • 2,000 lbs. to 10,000 lbs.; or 2,000 to 10,000 cannabis plants – 7 years prison and a $50,000 fine; or
  • 10,000 lbs. or more; or 10,000 or more cannabis plants – 15 years prison and a $200,000 fine.

This article was last updated on Monday, October 24, 2016.

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