With Florida’s new legislation legalizing specific forms of medical marijuana (a further description can be found here and here), the War on Drugs in the US has been a popular topic of discussion.
In 2012 alone, 749,825 people were charged with marijuana charges, and of those, approximately 88 percent of the charges (658,231 people) were simple possession arrests. More Drug War Statistics can be found here: Drug War Statistics.
If marijuana is further legalized in Florida by way of the broader spectrum medical use as placed on the November 2014 election ballot, it will be interesting to see the effect it will have on the Florida criminal justice system. Drug charges are heavily prosecuted in the State of Florida, including Palm Beach County, and often, prosecutors are able to add additional charges, such as weapons charges, after a search based on marijuana reveals evidence of additional crimes. Florida police officers often make arrests that stem from the odor of marijuana. For example, a simple traffic stop for speeding could turn into a vehicle search based upon the odor of marijuana and result in criminal charges. A simple knock and talk could turn into a full house search if the police arrive, smell the odor of marijuana, and obtain a warrant. If Florida ultimately legalizes marijuana, it may be much more difficult for police officers to make arrests and search suspects based on the odor of marijuana alone.
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.