On September 22, the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) published a post on Facebook with a picture of two officers standing next to 16 potted marijuana plants sitting on the hood of a police cruiser. According to the post, an off-duty Alachua County Sheriff Deputy found the plants on a trail near Norton Elementary School while walking his dogs.
The GPD said it was storing the plants until the rightful owners can be found. The officers left a note at the scene that said:
“We have your weed.
Call 911 to identify or claim it.
Reaction on the social media website was mixed, with many users critical of GPD for creating the post. After one user asked if the department typically goes after “low hanging fruit like this or are they just avoiding the pursuit of real criminals,” GPD said, “Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Perhaps...while forming your valid argument proving your "point" you missed the part where this was found on a trail yards away from an elementary school. A trail that kids normally use.”
While GPD certainly intended to inject a little humor into its Facebook feed, the criminal penalties surrounding marijuana cultivation are hardly a laughing matter. Under Florida Statute § 893.13, possession of a controlled substance such as cannabis with the intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver it is a third-degree felony offense, and such crimes allegedly committed in, on, or within 1,000 feet of public or private elementary, middle, or secondary schools can be classified as second-degree felony offenses.
Marijuana Penalties in Gainesville, FL
It is important to note that the plants pictured in the GPD Facebook post are immature plants that would be of no street value. Additionally, the Alachua County commission unanimously passed an ordinance on August 9 that allows sheriff’s deputies to have the option of handing out civil citations instead of making arrests when they catch alleged offenders in possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana.
Two years ago, the Florida Legislature passed the 2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which legalized non-smokeable, low-THC cannabis. This November, voters will get the opportunity to decide on Amendment 2, a citizen-initiated amendment to the state constitution that would legalize medical cannabis in Florida.
The Gainesville Sun reported in July that Florida's first legal harvest of marijuana was being cut up and stored in multiple vacuum-packed, 441-gram bags in a freezer on the outskirts of Tallahassee. According to the Sun, two of the other companies that were approved to do the same include Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Alachua County and San Felasco Nurseries in Gainesville.
Florida’s attempt to create a medical marijuana problem has seen numerous problems. Many law-abiding citizens who suffer from a variety of debilitating conditions or are dealing with chronic pain would benefit from being able to smoke cannabis.
The GPD poking fun at discovering one person’s attempt to grow their own marijuana—possibly for a medical condition—does nothing to address these issues. If anything, it only furthers the belief that public officials are not taking the real issues seriously.
If you were arrested anywhere in Central Florida for allegedly possessing or cultivating cannabis, it will be in your best interest to immediately contact a Gainesville marijuana lawyer. You may be able to fight to have the criminal charges reduced or dismissed.