A mix of factors–such as legalization of recreational marijuana in other states, large scale cannabis production, and the rise of vape pen use–has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of people possessing and using THC concentrates. In addition to the THC oils used to smoke in vape pens, many users are also leaving behind the traditional leafy, bud form of marijuana in favor of more concentrated, exotic cannabis options for dabbing like rosin, sap, wax, shatter, “pull and snap,” crumble or budder. When choosing these more concentrated versions of cannabis over marijuana in its normal plant-form, many users in Florida fail to consider their exposure to significantly harsher punishments if caught by the police.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
Although the Florida Statutes (and the federal government) classify any type of cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, Florida views the form of cannabis in dramatically different ways for punishment purposes. The difference between possession of normal, bud-like marijuana and cannabis concentrates can quickly mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge (see F.S. 893.13). Possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis (in its bud-like form) in Florida is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. For scale, an eighth of an ounce is a little more than 3.5 grams of marijuana; 20 grams is a pretty significant amount. By contrast, possession of even a small amount (to include just concentrate residue stuck to a bag or wrapper) of cannabis concentrate in Florida is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. By comparison, Florida also considers possession of between 20 grams and 25 pounds of normal marijuana as third degree felony. Someone caught with an empty bottle of THC oil (with some residue left inside) for a vape pen may face the same charge as someone caught with 24 pounds of weed.
What to Do?
If you are arrested or issued a notice to appear for drug possession, it is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Sometimes police make mistakes and charges can be dismissed. Other times, physical evidence or witness testimony may be weak and it is worth fighting the charges in front of a jury. Another option might be to take advantage of the drug pretrial intervention programs offered by Hillsborough and Pinellas county courts. Pretrial diversion programs, if completed successfully, result in the dismissal of charges.
If you find yourself facing drug or other criminal charges in the Tampa Bay area, call Matthew T. Smith for a free consultation.