Tuesday, November 15, 2016


The federal government should no longer prioritize marijuana investigations and arrests in Florida now that voters have passed the Florida constitutional amendment allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana. In other parts of the country where the legality of marijuana within a state has been called into question either by complete legalization or by allowances for medical marijuana the federal government has faced a dilemma on how to proceed because cannabis is still technically outlawed federally. In other states the DEA, FBI and the United States Attorney's offices have deescalated investigations and arrests in marijuana cases in states that have taken direct action undermining marijuana legality.

Will this be true in Florida as well? Will possession of marijuana continue to be draw federal interest? It should be, because otherwise even state sanctioned marijuana growers would be subject to conspiracy to traffic in marijuana laws that draw minimum mandatory drug sentences with very limited discretion for judges to go under the harsh sentencing laws. One thing we do know with certainty is that the majority vote for a failed marijuana amendment a few years ago had no effect on federal prosecutor's zeal to prosecute Florida marijuana cases. Yet presidential politics may undermine the people's movement to make marijuana legal and readily available for those who need it.

Under the Obama administration the U.S. Attorney's offices were directed to give states some leeway on legalization of medical marijuana as well as recreational marijuana use. The new Trump "law and order" administration may seek to enforce federal marijuana laws even in states or perhaps especially in states that have softened on drugs. Many of these states happen to be in those sane parts of the country that voted heaviest against Trump perhaps making enthusiasm for harsh federal drug enforcement within the new administration more likely as political payback.

In Florida it's often difficult to avoid harsh penalties for possession of even small amounts of marijuana. Within six months we'll know if criminalizing those who use marijuana will become a federal goal with the sad result of ruining countless lives needlessly for a nonviolent crime. Federal marijuana indictments may increase rather than decrease despite the Florida vote for medical marijuana. If so, the fact that a supermajority of Florida voters passed medical marijuana will be as insignificant as the fact that over a million more people voted for Clinton to be president than voted for Trump. A madman's whims will dictate our course.

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