Medical marijuana finally entered the Florida market on July 26, 2016 at a shop in a strip mall located in Tallahassee.

Six Florida medical cannabis licensees will eventually open dispensaries throughout the state.

Don’t get too excited.

While it looks like Florida is warming up to a marijuana trend popping up all over the United States, the State has yet to completely jump on the bandwagon.

The following has changed: Based on the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, the legal right to purchase and possess marijuana in Florida cities like Jacksonville is highly restricted to patients suffering from epilepsy, seizure disorders or certain cancers.

Legalized Medical Marijuana: Benefits Worth Fighting For

The proven medical benefits for marijuana are huge. The relief it provides for people suffering from chronic health problems should not be denied.

Here’s a list of a few of the major medical benefits:

  • Reduces chronic pain from debilitating diseases
  • Relieves chronic seizures for those suffering with epilepsycanstockphoto9159384
  • Eases nausea and reduces vomiting form patients undergoing chemotherapy
  • Increases appetite for patients undergoing chemotherapy or battling malnourishment

Let’s talk about the money.

In the first six months of 2016, small businesses in Colorado have sold nearly a half billion dollars of marijuana.

Taxes from that huge revenue boom in Colorado benefits many of the State’s cities.

  • Aurora is using $1.5 million to address its homeless issue
  • Adams County earmarked more than $500,000 for low-income student scholarships
  • Northglenn used $730,000 in 2015 to improve infrastructure and city facilities

Don’t forget about the costs of incarceration.

According to data from the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, in 2013 the average annual cost of incarcerating an inmate in a minimum security institution was $21,006.

In 2013, 757,969 individuals were incarcerated for marijuana abuse. Doing the math, that’s over $15 billion each year to imprison these individuals.

That’s a huge cost….for what many consider a petty crime.

A Little Legislative Background on Medical Marijuana in Florida

An organization called United for Care successfully placed an initiative on the November 4, 2014 ballot to legalize medical marijuana.

The majority voted 57.62% in favor of this amendment, but it was defeated on Election Day. In the state of Florida, the state constitution requires at least a 60% supermajority vote for an amendment to pass. This amendment to legalize medical marijuana was struck down by 2.38 percent.

However, for many Floridians, surrendering the cause was not an option.

In their opinion, marijuana has significant medical benefits and a there is a serious need to protect both the patients and doctors from risk of arrest and imprisonment.

Soon Florida will vote again on the right to legalize medical marijuana.

The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Amendment 2, will be on the November 8, 2016 ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment.

What You Should Expect

If medical marijuana is legalized, then the measure would also require that the Department of Health regulate marijuana production, distribution centers, and issuance of identification cards to caregivers and patients.

What You Should Know Today

In short, without a valid medical prescription, possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal.

However, certain cities and counties within Florida have taken steps to reduce penalties for the offense of possession of marijuana.

Several cities and counties give officers discretion to forego arrests for possession under 20 grams of marijuana in favor of citations.

What Will Happen If Medical Marijuana Becomes Legalized?

Regardless of whether or not medical marijuana becomes legalized, it will still be illegal to drive under the influence of any alcohol or drugs.

Marijuana is a substance that can impair your ability to drive.

However, to be convicted of a DUI the pr
osecutor must first show that the driver was under the influence of substances.

The best thing for you and for the safety of others is to never drive under the influence of marijuana or any other substance. The price can be costly: Accidents, jail time, fines and/or all three.

What to Do If Pulled Over with Possession of Medical Marijuana

If you’re not under the influence of medical marijuana when pulled over, you should be prepared.

Have an identification card as well as documentation allowing possession of the medical marijuana.

Most importantly, know your rights.

You are not required to consent to a vehicle search. Keep my phone number, 904-567-3113, handy so I can advise you if this becomes an issue.

Time will tell if legal medical marijuana use expands in Florida. Unless you are eligible and have a valid prescription, consider marijuana an illegal drug.

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