Florida is now among the many states in the nation that has passed laws legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Marijuana itself remains a controlled substance for which people who are not authorized patients can face criminal charges for possessing.
Medical marijuana patients are also prohibited from smoking cannabis, as the allowed administration is limited to pills, oils, or vaporization. Qualifying patients for medical marijuana must be diagnosed with one of the listed debilitating medical conditions.
Even those who suffer from serious medical conditions can face challenges accessing medical cannabis when they suffer from conditions other than the qualifying ailments. The only exception to this is if a physician can certify that a patients suffers from “medical conditions of the same kind or class as or are comparable to those enumerated.”
Lawyer in West Palm Beach, FL Discusses Medical Marijuana
Were you recently arrested for a marijuana crime in South Florida even though you needed it for a medical condition? It is important that you exercise your right to remain silent until you retain experienced legal counsel. Consider contacting Meltzer & Bell, P.A..
Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are experienced criminal defense attorneys in West Palm Beach who defend clients facing cannabis charges in Lake Worth, Royal Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Greenacres, and many surrounding areas of Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County.
You can have our lawyers review your case and answer all of your legal questions when you call (561) 557-8686 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of Medical Marijuana in Palm Beach County
- What are Florida’s state laws regarding medical marijuana?
- Do people with medical needs for cannabis have any defenses against criminal charges?
- Where can I learn more about medical marijuana in West Palm Beach?
Florida Medical Marijuana Laws
On June 16, 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. The bill legalized the low-potency strain of marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web”—a strain of cannabis containing 10 percent or more cannabidiol (CBD, the compound attributed to medical benefits but not euphoric effects) but 0.8 percent or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the compound that produces the euphoric effects).
Use of Charlotte’s Web was initially approved for a very limited group of patients. In 2016, 71.32 percent of Florida voters passed the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, more commonly known as Amendment 2, which expanded the qualifying medical conditions.
Amendment 2 became effective on January 3, 2017, as Section 29 in Article X of the Florida Constitution. The new section states that “medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver in compliance with this section is not subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law.”
Under Amendment 2, qualifying conditions now include:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV);
- Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS);
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS);
- Crohn’s disease;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Multiple sclerosis (MS);
- Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to the aforementioned;
- A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification; and
- Chronic nonmalignant pain.
Medical Marijuana Defenses in West Palm Beach
When a person without a qualifying condition possesses marijuana, he or she can face criminal charges. While possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis is a first-degree misdemeanor, many other marijuana crimes are felony offenses.
While cannabis may be legally available for medicinal purposes in Florida, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. A person in need of cannabis for medical purposes may be able to assert the necessity defense, also known as a “lesser of two evils” defense.
When an alleged offender utilize the necessity defense, he or she essentially argues that they were forced by circumstances beyond their control to pick between two “evils” and chose to commit a criminal offense that caused less harm than the alternative.
Florida courts have upheld the validity of the necessity defense, with the First District Court of Appeal ruling in Jenks v. State, 582 So. 2d 676 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) that the “medical-necessity defense is merely a more particular application of the necessity defense.”
The First District Court of Appeal established that the elements of the necessity defense that were previously addressed by trial courts are as follows:
- That the defendant did not intentionally bring about the circumstance which precipitated the unlawful act;
- That the defendant could not accomplish the same objective using a less offensive alternative available to the defendant; and
- That the evil sought to be avoided was more heinous than the unlawful act perpetrated to avoid it.
The Supreme Court of Florida wrote that the District Court of Appeal “correctly determined that the defense of medical necessity to marijuana use still applies in Florida” in affirming the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”
The Legislature must speak unequivocally in order to abrogate the common-law defense of necessity as applied to marijuana use, but it has never done so,” the Court wrote.
Florida Standard Jury Instruction Chapter 3.6(k) establishes that an alleged offender may be able to use necessity as a defense against marijuana charges when all of the following elements have been proven:
- The alleged offender reasonably believed a danger or emergency existed which was not intentionally caused by the alleged offender;
- The danger or emergency threatened significant harm to the alleged offender;
- The threatened harm must have been real, imminent, and impending;
- The alleged offender had no reasonable means to avoid the danger or emergency except by committing the alleged offense;
- The offense must have been committed out of necessity to avoid the danger or emergency; and
- The harm that the alleged offender avoided must outweigh the harm caused by committing the offense.
Florida Medical Marijuana Resources
Florida Department of Health | Office of Medical Marijuana Use — The Office of Medical Marijuana Use is charged with writing and implementing the department’s rules for medical marijuana, overseeing the statewide Medical Marijuana Use Registry, and licensing Florida businesses to cultivate, process, and dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients. Use this website to access the patient registry and locate licensed medical marijuana treatment centers. You can also read recent news and answers to frequently asked questions.
Medical Marijuana Use Registry | Florida Department of Health — The Medical Marijuana Use Registry is an online database for the registration of ordering physicians and qualified patients. You can view registry user guides for patients and caregivers, ordering physicians, and law enforcement. Patients and legal representatives can log into the registry using their email addresses once they have been added their physicians.
Find a Medical Marijuana Defense Attorney in West Palm Beach, FL
If you were arrested in South Florida for a cannabis offense despite your medical need for marijuana, it is in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel.
Meltzer & Bell, P.A. represents individuals in communities all over Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County, and Broward County, such as Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Wellington, Jupiter, Boca Raton, and many others.
West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most favorable outcome to your case that results in the fewest possible penalties.
Call (561) 557-8686 or submit an online form to have our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation.