Florida has established a state-regulated medical cannabis market that benefits thousands of registered patients, and more than a dozen local governments have enacted laws aimed at reducing punishments for low-level offenses. But…
Learn more below about the current policy landscape, then find out how Florida could benefit from ending cannabis prohibition.
Possessing, producing, and selling cannabis are entirely illegal in Florida for anyone who is not a qualified and licensed participant in the state’s medical cannabis program (more information about medical cannabis can be found under the “Medical Cannabis” tab below).
Under state law:
Individuals convicted of even the lowest-level offenses, such as simple possession, can experience serious and sometimes life-altering consequences, including:
Nationwide, there were more than 6.1 million cannabis-related arrests from 2010-2018, according to federal data compiled by the ACLU. While the number of annual arrests dropped 18% during that period, there were more arrests in 2018 than in 2015, despite the fact that several states legalized or decriminalized cannabis during that time.
Florida-specific statistics are not available because the state chooses not to provide arrest data to the FBI for its annual crime report. The neighboring state of Georgia has roughly half the population of Florida and reported more than 52,000 cannabis arrests in 2018, so we estimate there are approximately 100,000 cannabis arrests in Florida each year. It is also extremely important to note that Black people in Georgia were about three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people, and we see a similar disparity nationwide.
Since 2015, more than a dozen local governments in Florida have enacted ordinances aimed at reducing the penalties for low-level cannabis possession offenses, as well as the expenditure of resources by law enforcement. In most cases, these measures give police officers the option of issuing citations instead of making arrests in cases where they find an individual in possession of paraphernalia or less than 20 grams of cannabis.
Florida’s medical cannabis law was adopted in 2016 when voters approved Amendment 2 by a margin of 71-29. It protects qualified patients, caregivers, doctors, and licensed medical cannabis dispensaries from criminal prosecutions or civil sanctions under state law (but not federal law).
Following Amendment 2’s passage, the Legislature enacted legislation to implement it, and the state Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) established rules and regulations governing the program. Since then, lawmakers and regulators have continued to make tweaks. For example, the Legislature passed SB 182 in 2019, repealing the ban it had previously imposed on smoking medical cannabis.
To qualify for the program, patients must be permanent or seasonal residents of Florida who have registered with the state’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry and obtained a state-issued medical marijuana ID card. In order for a patient to register, their doctor must certify that they suffer from one or more of the following qualifying conditions:
Registered patients can purchase medical cannabis from licensed businesses known as Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs). These businesses are subject to strict regulations governing virtually every aspect of their operations, including their cultivation of cannabis, processing of products, and dispensation to patients.