Although the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, meaning it has no medical value and a high potential for abuse, hundreds of thousands of Americans use marijuana for medical purposes in different states. As information about the various medical uses of marijuana has spread, so too has legalization for medical or recreational purposes.
Florida has recently joined the growing majority of states that have legalized marijuana to some degree for medical purposes. If you get caught with marijuana and police charge you with possession, can you claim medical use as an affirmative defense to the charges?
Technically, qualifying patients should join the registry
Florida has a specialized department that oversees the medical marijuana program. It certifies doctors to qualify patients and oversees every other aspect of medical marijuana in Florida. To legally use marijuana in Florida, you need to join the medical marijuana use registry. To do that, you have to have a qualifying condition like cancer, Crohn’s disease or epilepsy.
Claiming medical use as a defense to marijuana possession charges is theoretically possible. Still, given that there is now a program to allow legal access to marijuana, you will have a harder time using an affirmative defense for possession without being part of the state registry.
Historically, people have successfully defended against marijuana possession charges by showing that it was the only option for treating their pain and suffering because there were no legal medications available. The legal availability of medical marijuana would undermine such an affirmative defense in modern Florida.
Learning more about Florida drug laws can help you respond to a criminal charge better.