Can you legally grow marijuana in Florida?
Over 300,000 Florida residents have medical marijuana cards. Yet certain activities related to marijuana remain illegal. Selling it outside the medical market can come with stiff legal consequences. And recreational use may still result in a fine or jail time.
But you may be curious whether you can grow marijuana in Florida without breaking the law. You may want to start a business that contributes to the state’s medical supply. Or you could be a card holder wanting easier access to marijuana in case of an emergency. A recent case illustrates the difficulty in doing so.
The growing case
In 2018, a Leon County judge ruled that a medical marijuana patient could grow his own plants, so long as he doesn’t share their contents with anyone. The Florida Department of Health filed a prompt appeal. They did so because the ruling went against the state’s statutes. By Florida law, residents cannot grow marijuana for personal or medical use. Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal overturned the Leon County Circuit’s ruling in April 2019. And so far, the state has refused to consider the plaintiff’s appeals. Nor will the Florida Supreme Court hear the case as of right now.
What this means for you
The initial ruling could have shifted Florida’s laws on marijuana growth. But the Court of Appeal’s reversal upheld the law which criminalizes growing marijuana for medical or personal purposes. Thus, growing your own supply is illegal.
You’ll also face challenges if you want to start a commercial growing operation in Florida. While commercial licenses are available, the state has granted few. Florida licensed new marijuana businesses in 2015 and 2019. But the state has not announced any forthcoming rounds since then.
Growing marijuana legally in Florida is near impossible. But as state laws evolve, there will likely be more cases that challenge the current statutes. If you’re caught growing marijuana now, consulting a criminal defense attorney can help you work through your charges.
Over 300,000 Florida residents have medical marijuana cards. Yet certain activities related to marijuana remain illegal. Selling it outside the medical market
Growing marijuana in florida
At present, The Sunshine State is still stuck with only a medical marijuana law. This is not surprising for a state in the deep South, but even at this time, the state’s medical marijuana program is mired with legal woes. Last May, a Tampa-based cannabis firm launched a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health challenging the constitutionality of a 2017 law that was designed to carry out a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical cannabis under Florida marijuana laws. The case is still ongoing, with the Florida Supreme Court ordering a second round of arguments for October. The results of the case are expected to significantly change Florida’s marijuana industry and so far, the lower courts are in agreement with the plaintiff’s assertions.
In addition to this, Florida’s high court is also mulling whether a recreational cannabis ballot proposal can go before voters. Unfortunately, marijuana advocacy group Make It Legal Florida had to abandon its efforts for this year but vowed that they would get the initiative on the 2020 ballot.
Given this, it seems that recreational legalization is still in its nascent stages and it is not likely to see home cultivation in any form within the next few years.
- Overview of Florida Marijuana Laws
- History of Marijuana in Florida
- Illegal cannabis
- Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Florida
- FAQs about marijuana legalization in Florida
Overview of Florida Marijuana Laws
Home cultivation of both recreational and medical marijuana is illegal under Florida marijuana laws. In fact, the state’s law enforcement even established a number of programs and efforts to pursue illegal cultivation.
- Possession – Possession or delivery of 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $1000. Meanwhile, anything more than 20 grams is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5000.
- Sale – Selling 25 pounds or less is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. Fines and prison sentences increase with the amount of marijuana.
- Cultivation – Growing marijuana falls under “manufacture” and is usually treated as a third degree felony if there are less than 25 plants. However, felony charges get more serious as the number of plants increase:
- 25 to 300 plants – up to 15 years and a maximum fine of $10000
- 300 to 2000 plants – 3 to 15 years and a maximum fine of $25000
- 2000 to 10,000 plants – 7 to 30 years and a maximum fine of $50000
If the offense takes place within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, or other specified areas, it is a felony punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 15 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
History of Marijuana in Florida
Being one of the southernmost states in the US, it’s not surprising that Florida had such a turbulent history with marijuana, even though it is not native to the state. During the prohibition in the 1930s, the first commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger, used a number of gruesome crimes in his propaganda against marijuana. In a particularly bloody murder case in Tampa, Anslinger blamed marijuana for driving a certain Victor Licata into a killing spree. However, Licata’s medical records revealed that his mental illness and not marijuana was responsible for his actions.
Nevertheless, Anslinger continued to use such violent offenses, which were later on discredited, to turn the public’s opinion against cannabis, calling it names such as “the devil weed”. He was also instrumental in Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
Despite the federal government’s war on drugs, Florida saw a resurgence of weed in the 60s and 70s. Around this time, marijuana was being smuggled into cities like Miami by the ton from places like Jamaica. Florida’s cannabis gray market boomed, fueled by smuggling and homegrown weed. In fact, the “Gainesville Green” strain became one of the most sought after due to its potency.
Florida’s illegal weed trade just kept on getting worse through the 80s. So much so that Everglades City, a small fishing town west of Miami became one of the most notorious dropoff points of marijuana from Colombia. It was also one of the hardest hit by the federal government’s War on Drugs.
Finally, in the 90s, a landmark case involving home cultivation significantly contributed to the efforts to legalize medical marijuana. That year, the Jenks in Panama Beach were busted for growing medical marijuana for their AIDS symptoms. Thankfully, they were able to appeal their conviction and were acquitted the next year. In 1999, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a “medical necessity” could be used as a defense in some marijuana cases. This became an important precedent that came at a time when the medical community was already calling for serious studies into the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
A number of Florida cities were already mulling decriminalization in ‘00s but it took a decade before any significant changes were made to Florida marijuana laws. In 2013-2014, an initiative to legalize medical cannabis, known as Amendment 2, lost with a narrow margin. However, around this time, Gov. Rick Scott also signed into law the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act”. Also known as Senate Bill 1030, it permitted the use of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil extracted from the Charlotte’s Web strain.
Finally, in 2016, Gov. Scott signed House Bill 307 which expands the Right to Try Act to include medical cannabis. In the same year, Amendment 2 was once more put to a vote and won 71.3% to 28.7%. However, the law did make home cultivation legal for patients and caregivers. In between 2015 to 2019, a number of cities and counties also approved their own decriminalization ordinances.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Florida
How do Florida marijuana laws compare with those in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in Florida
No, adult-use cannabis is still illegal in Florida. However, a number of counties have already lowered penalties for simple possession.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not allowed in Florida.
Yes, medical cannabis is already legal in Florida.
None. Home cultivation of medical cannabis is not allowed in Florida.
Two bills on recreational marijuana legalization were introduced earlier this year: SB 1860 and HB 1389. However, the legislature adjourned its session in March, leaving both bills dead in committee. Likewise, the effort to put legalization on the ballot for this year also failed.
Residents are not allowed to cultivate marijuana, whether recreational or medical, at home in Florida.
Only adult workers employed by a licensed marijuana production entity may legally cultivate cannabis in Florida.
At present, there are three petitions seeking to make recreational marijuana legal in Florida. However, only one is pushing for the right of adults 21 and older to grow their own cannabis at home. The two other proposals are reportedly backed by big cannabis corporations that are looking to monopolize Florida’s adult-use market. While it is clear that recreational marijuana is on the horizon within a few years, it may be in the form of a proposal propelled by corporate money and is thus not likely to include home cultivation.
Medical marijuana is already legal in the Sunshine State. However, medical and recreational home cultivation is still illegal under Florida marijuana laws