If Florida lawmakers are finding it difficult to keep up to date with the latest marijuana-related developments in the state, it’s hard to blame them.
As well as fine-tuning legislation for the fledgling medical marijuana industry, and considering rafts of newly proposed cannabis bills, they’re also still working out how to accommodate hemp’s new legal status alongside marijuana prohibition.
There’s also the small matter of various petition drives to put marijuana reform proposals on the 2020 ballot.
To help get a grip on what’s been happening, here’s a rundown of the latest marijuana-related legislative action in Florida.
1. Ban on smoking marijuana in state parks
Following the City of Miami Beach’s decision to ban smoking cannabis in public, Republican Sen. Joe Gruters introduced a bill, SB 670, to expand it across the state. If passed, by summer 2020 it would be illegal to smoke or vape in public anywhere in Florida.
2. Determining which companies can grow and sell marijuana
Sponsored by Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, HB 149 would redefine medical marijuana treatment centers and change how the Florida Department of Health issues licenses to cultivators and dispensaries. The bill would remove limits on the number of licenses that can be issued, as well as the cap on how many facilities a medical marijuana business can open after receiving a license. Sabatini has also been outspoken about the exorbitant cost of obtaining a medical marijuana license in Florida, though it is unclear if his bill would help to address this.
3. Allowing deviation from minimum sentences for marijuana offenses
This bill, HB 339, would afford judges more freedom to determine sentences for the sale and trafficking of marijuana according to the particularities of the case, rather than dishing out a stipulated minimum punishment. HB 339 would also increase the threshold required for marijuana possession to be considered for trafficking charges.
4. Allowing for more medical marijuana businesses and the sale of edibles
This Florida Senate Bill, SB 212, would include medical marijuana retail facilities alongside medical marijuana treatment centers as authorized places to get low-THC cannabis products and edibles. The retail facilities would not be allowed to produce their own products. Instead they would be paired with a single treatment center, from whom they would obtain their goods. The bill would also preclude qualified medical marijuana physicians and caregivers from holding an economic interest in a medical marijuana retail facility.
5. Reducing criminal penalties for marijuana offenses
This bill would reduce the severity of fines and sentences issued for marijuana possession offenses. The bill, HB 25, would change possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a noncriminal violation. HB 25 also contains provisions which would ensure that juveniles charged with marijuana possession would be eligible for civil citations or diversion programs, instead of facing a sentence or fine.