Florida’s newest push for pot may spell trouble for law enforcement


A law firm says that the new recreational marijuana bill in Florida could cause huge issues for law enforcement if it passes in its current form.

Florida House Bill 1117 concerns the legality of recreational cannabis. If passed, the measure would allow adults age 21 and older to possess, use, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and would give them the ability to grow up to 6 plants in their homes.

Naturally, this creates business opportunities in the area including production and sales to the public. Cannabis laws have made drastic advances over the past decade, with nearly 35 states legalizing medicinal use and more than 10 states now allowing adults to grow, purchase and consume the psychoactive substance without legal repercussions.

But some are saying that these new regulations could pose issues for law enforcement and business owners.

Marbet Lewis from Spiritus Law in Coral Gables, Florida, says there are some serious loopholes for businesses that need to be addressed by lawmakers if the bill is to be a success.

“The bill proposes to regulate marijuana like alcohol, but it deviates from alcohol regulations in a very significant way. With alcohol, regulation is largely in the hands the State Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco and licensing is required on the state level with local zoning approval. Alcohol license applicants cannot bypass State licensing or regulation. If the State fails to issue or deny an alcohol license within 90 days, the application is deemed approved but still subject to all State regulatory requirements and enforcement and oversight by the State agency.”

Florida's newest push for pot may spell trouble for law enforcement
Recreational businesses could find themselves battling inconsistent regulations if the bill passes in its current form.

So what happens when these same issues arise in the upcoming cannabis industry? 

“After the 90 days, the applicant would be able to bypass the state and apply to the local jurisdiction, which would then have authority to issue a local license even without State approval.” 

Essentially, this puts the State agencies and local departments on an uneven playing field.

“This could create conflict and uncertainty with respect to law enforcement authority and jurisdiction – and overburden local law enforcement with what should be a State agency function,” said Lewis.

“Local laws cannot conflict with state laws, but this bill proposes to give a lot of discretion and rule-making authority to local jurisdictions over issuing licenses for recreational marijuana production and sale to consumers.”

And some of these regulations do come down to local government decisions, such as the zoning locations of dispensaries, time restrictions for sales, and more.

“The State agency works in conjunction with local police as needed for raids and investigation.  If the State agency’s authority is removed, then local police may need to take on that burden.”

Under the bill, it would still be illegal to smoke or ingest marijuana in a public place. Violators would be subject to a penalty of $100. 

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