The history of cannabis legality in Florida has been complex and evolving, with many changes in laws and policies over the years. Today we’ll take a look at the roller coaster of a journey cannabis legality has gone through to reach its most recent status in 2023.
First Cannabis Laws
The first law regarding cannabis in Florida was passed in 1933, which made possession of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. This law was part of a broader national trend of criminalizing marijuana during the early 20th century, driven by concerns about the drug's perceived effects on mental health and social behavior.
The 1933 law was relatively mild compared to later drug laws, which would classify marijuana as a highly dangerous drug and impose much harsher penalties for possession and distribution. However, it laid the groundwork for the state's subsequent approach to marijuana regulation, which has been shaped by shifting public attitudes and changing scientific understanding of the drug's effects.
Pushing the Legal Limits
In 1978, Florida amended its drug laws to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which is the most restrictive category of controlled substances in the United States. Schedule I drugs are defined as substances with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
By classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug, Florida effectively criminalized all possession, use, and distribution of the substance. This decision was part of a broader trend at the time, as many other states and the federal government were also passing strict drug laws and imposing harsh penalties for drug offenses. The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug meant that anyone caught with the drug could face significant legal consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record.
Critics of the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug argue that the decision was not based on sound scientific evidence and that it has impeded research into the potential medical benefits of the drug.
Changing of the Tides
2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act
In 2014, Florida passed a limited medical marijuana law called the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which allowed patients with certain qualifying medical conditions to access low-THC cannabis oil or other non-smokable forms of marijuana. This law was considered a major step forward for medical marijuana advocates in the state, as it marked the first time that Florida had legalized any form of marijuana for medical use.
The qualifying medical conditions under the 2014 law were very narrow, and the use of medical marijuana was restricted to only a small group of patients, including those with cancer, epilepsy, and chronic seizures.
However, despite these changes, some advocates felt that the medical marijuana laws in Florida were still too restrictive and did not go far enough to meet the needs of patients. In response, medical marijuana advocates launched a campaign to put a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana on the ballot for the November 2016 election.
2016 Act Expansion
In 2016, the law was expanded to include a wider range of medical conditions, such as glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis. The expansion also allowed terminally ill patients to access full-strength marijuana.
The amendment, known as Amendment 2, was passed by Florida voters with more than 70% of the vote. The amendment broadened access to medical marijuana by allowing doctors to recommend the drug for a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and other debilitating medical conditions.
Implementation of the amendment was delayed due to legal challenges and regulatory issues, but eventually, the state developed a system for licensing medical marijuana dispensaries and regulating the production and distribution of medical marijuana products.
Smokable Cannabis Ban Goes Up in Smoke
In 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law that repealed a ban on smokable medical marijuana. This was a significant change to the state's medical marijuana program, as it allowed patients to use the drug in its natural form rather than being limited to low-THC cannabis oil or other non-smokable forms of marijuana.
The ban on smokable medical marijuana had been in place since the state's medical marijuana program was first established, and it had been a source of controversy and legal challenges for several years. Many patients and advocates argued that the ban was arbitrary and prevented them from using the most effective form of medical marijuana for their conditions. In 2017, a group of patients sued the state, arguing that the ban was unconstitutional and violated their right to access medical treatment.
The law signed by Governor DeSantis not only allowed patients to use smokable medical marijuana but also required the state to develop regulations for the production and distribution of smokable marijuana products. This included requirements for labeling, testing, and packaging of smokable marijuana, as well as guidelines for the use of the drug by patients.
The repeal of the smokable marijuana ban was a significant victory for medical marijuana advocates in Florida, who had been pushing for the change for several years. It gave patients more options for how to use medical marijuana and made the state's program more accessible and flexible.
Close, But No Dice for Recreational Cannabis
In 2020, cannabis advocates in Florida attempted to take the next step and place a recreational marijuana amendment on the ballot for that year. However, those efforts were unsuccessful, and there was no such amendment on the ballot for that year's election. Most recently in 2022, a proposed constitutional amendment to allow recreational cannabis use was blocked from the ballot after the state high court ruled that the language used was misleading.
There are ongoing efforts by some advocates and lawmakers in Florida to further expand access to medical marijuana or even to legalize recreational marijuana. However, at this time, recreational marijuana remains illegal in Florida, and any efforts to legalize it would require action by the state legislature or a new constitutional amendment approved by voters.
Hope For the Future
As more and more states legalize recreational cannabis, we could see the tide turn for the State of Florida. For now though, cannabis users will need a medical cannabis prescription to legally purchase and consume cannabis in the state.
Those looking for the benefits of cannabis can find them, minus the high, in an abundance of CBD products now available to be bought in state or shipped. Read our blog on CBD products to find the right one for you, or try our line of CBD-rich hemp flower to find the flavor to fit your mood.