Friday, August 05, 2016


Wouldn't you know it - the fact that Floridians overwhelmingly voted for medical marijuana has not stopped the feds from vigorous pursuit of marijuana cases in the Middle District of Florida. A couple of years ago more than 58% of voters supported a failed constitutional amendment for medical marijuana in Florida, just under the 60% threshold for passage. Recent polling indicates that medical marijuana is likely to surpass 60% to become the law in Florida at the next election. Further, many local Florida jurisdictions such as Tampa and St. Petersburg are following Miami's example by decriminalizing small quantities of marijuana.

Yet these events seem to mean nothing to federal prosecutors. Instead of tamping down the number of federal marijuana indictments there's been an increase in cases over the past few years. Once these cases are in the federal system federal judges have very limited discretion in avoiding long minimum mandatory sentences from the antiquated federal sentencing guidelines. And it's difficult to avoid harsh penalties under Florida law even when the state of Florida prosecutes marijuana cases. More troubling is the fact that the federal government for the most part no longer pursues marijuana in other states that have either decriminalized marijuana possession or allowed for medical marijuana. 

How can it be fair that marijuana indictments have increased in the southern United States while in many other parts of the country marijuana prosecutions are a thing of the past? Clearly the federal law should no longer be applied anywhere if it's not being applied everywhere. The foundation of the criminal law is that it be fairly applied in an equal manner. 

One wonders if the real cause of increased marijuana enforcement is a lack of other available productive work for the DEA. As arrests and indictments for hard drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine have shriveled could it be that DEA agents as well as prosecutors simply do not have enough to do? It's frightening to contemplate the very real possibility that drug investigations, arrests and indictments are not based on targeting actual threats to the public. Once medical marijuana is legalized what will nosey officers smelling marijuana without a search warrant do then? Will cough medicine be next on their list?

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