In addition to casting their votes for president on November 8, Floridians also voted on Amendment 2, a bill that expanded the use of medical marijuana. Amendment 2, also called the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, includes provisions that allow medical marijuana for patients who suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other serious conditions. Before Amendment 2 was considered, only terminally ill patients with less than one year to live were allowed a medical marijuana card.
What if those who are now able to obtain medical marijuana cards under Amendment 2 were convicted of marijuana crimes before it passed the vote and became the official law of Florida? Will those individuals have their charges dropped? After all, if an act is legal in January of 2017, should someone really be punished for the same act if it occurred in October of 2016?
Unfortunately, in many cases, an individual convicted of marijuana-related crimes will still face criminal punishment, even if the individual would not be convicted under the newly passed Amendment 2. Similar situations have been reported in Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and Washington, D.C., where marijuana has been legalized to some extent.
The United States, along with a handful of other countries, does not allow retroactive ameliorative relief. With retroactive ameliorative relief, a sentence for a crime may not necessarily be reduced or dismissed if the crime for which the defendant was arrested is abolished at a later date. You have probably heard about inmates on death row trying to get their sentences reduced after their states abolish the death penalty. This is the same concept that impacts marijuana laws.
How can someone arrested for a marijuana crime have a sentence reduced or dismissed after marijuana is legalized?
Many defendants, especially those sitting behind iron bars, wonder how they may be able to seek a reduction or a dismissal of their sentences after the crimes they were convicted of or arrested for are no longer crimes. Unfortunately, the only new legislation would provide a remedy for these individuals.
The members of the Florida legislature would have to draft a law that allows the retroactive reduction or dismissal of a sentence if the original crime was abolished. After the bill is drafted, it must be filed. The bill must be presented to a committee, and if it receives the committee’s approval, it will be presented to the House and the Senate. The governor will then decide whether to sign the bill and enact it into law. This process may take several months or even longer, as the Florida legislature only meets once a year for 60 days to discuss proposed legislation.
The executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Eric Sterling, explained, “The courts don’t get to simply decide on their own what’s fair or unfair. If the law has not given them the authority to reconsider such sentences, then it’s unfair. But it’s not illegal for the court to say, ‘Sorry, there isn’t a basis for us to fix your problem.
Those arrested for marijuana-related crimes should reach out to their legislators and encourage them to take action on this matter as soon as possible.
Have you been arrested for a marijuana-related crime?
At The 844-WeedLaw, our criminal defense attorneys are experienced in the marijuana laws of Florida and offer creative solutions for our clients. To schedule a free consultation, call 561-777-7700 or visit www.844WeedLaw.com.