Change in Florida law brings challenge in marijuana possession charges

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)-- A change in Florida law is presenting challenges to a local State Attorney on how marijuana possession cases are prosecuted.

On July 1st, a Florida law was amended to exclude hemp from the definition of cannabis. This made hemp and related hemp products with less than .3% THC legal. State Attorney Bill Cervone has now stated he will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana charges due to the costs of determining the difference between marijuana and hemp.

Cervone mentioned hemp and cannabis are indistinguishable by sight and smell, which brings problems for law enforcement and probable cause. Current field tests are unable to identify THC percentage and canine alerts are not likely to be sufficient for probable cause. This means law enforcement must provide additional evidence such as criminal activity, an admission, or any signs suggesting guilt to have probable cause.

He also recommended charges regarding marijuana possession be done by sworn complaint and arrests be done for large quantities of suspected marijuana or known drug traffickers.

Cervone expressed difficulties regarding prosecution, “everyone should remember that recreational cannabis still remains illegal in Florida. What has changed has been our ability to meet our burden of proof.”