Legislation to Decriminalize Marijuana Filed in Florida Senate

Legislation to remove criminal penalties for the first three times someone is caught possessing marijuana for personal use has been filed in the Florida Legislature.

Senator Shevrin Jones, a Democrat serving Florida’s 35th district, filed Senate Bill 94 earlier this month. Today it was assigned to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Under current Florida law, the possession of even a miniscule amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, with the penalty rising to a felony and up to five years in prison if there’s over 20 grams. Senate Bill 94 would change this so that the personal possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana would be a fine of $100 for a first violation, $250 for a second violation and $500 for a third. If a fourth violation is committed, it could be charged as a misdemeanor.

The measure clarifies that the possession of any drug paraphernalia “which is discovered in connection with a first, second, or third violation of this paragraph and is intended for use with such noncriminal violation may not be considered a criminal act or prosecuted as such”.

If passed into law, the proposal would take effect on July 1, 2024. It must be passed through the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, then the Judiciary and Rules Committees, and then the full Senate and House of Representatives, before it can be sent to Governor Ron DeSantis for consideration.

The proposal comes as voters prepare to consider an initiative to full legalize recreational marijuana. The proposal, put forth by Smart & Safe Florida, has collected enough valid signatures to receive a vote of the people during the November, 2024 general election. The state’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit seeking to remove the initiative from the ballot, with the Florida Supreme Court scheduled to hear the issue on November 8.

Smart & Safe Florida’s initiative would allow those 21 and older “to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise.” Under the proposed law, licensed marijuana retail outlets would be allowed to distribute the plant, with any of the state’s licensed medical-marijuana dispensaries allowed to “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell and distribute such products and accessories.”

According to polling released last month and conducted by the University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic University, 60% of registered Florida voters support legalizing marijuana, including 50% of Republicans.

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