At present, The Sunshine State is still stuck with only a medical marijuana law. This is not surprising for a state in the deep South, but even at this time, the state’s medical marijuana program is mired with legal woes. Last May 2020, a Tampa-based cannabis firm launched a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health challenging the constitutionality of a 2017 law that was designed to carry out a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical cannabis under Florida marijuana laws. The case is still ongoing, with the Florida Supreme Court hearing a new round of oral arguments this February. The results of the case are expected to significantly change Florida’s marijuana industry and so far, the lower courts are in agreement with the plaintiff’s assertions.
In addition to this, Florida’s high court is also mulling whether a recreational cannabis ballot proposal can go before voters. Unfortunately, marijuana advocacy group Make It Legal Florida had to abandon its efforts for this year but vowed that they would get the initiative on the 2022 ballot.
Lastly, Florida lawmakers Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Sen. Jeff Brandes, and Sen. Gary M. Farmer introduced earlier this year HB 343, SB 710, SB 664 respectively. These bills aim to legalize recreational marijuana for those aged 21 and older and establish a free-market regulatory approach to the governance of both medical and adult-use cannabis.
The legislation would allow people 21 and older to purchase and use, but not grow, limited amounts of marijuana without a medical marijuana card.
Given that that recreational legalization is still in its nascent stages in Florida, it’s unlikely that home cultivation will be permitted in any form within the next few years.
This article was reviewed and updated for 2021.
Overview of Florida Marijuana Laws
Home cultivation of both recreational and medical marijuana is illegal under Florida marijuana laws. In fact, the state’s law enforcement even established a number of programs and efforts to pursue illegal cultivation.
- Possession – Possession or delivery of 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $1000. Meanwhile, anything more than 20 grams is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5000.
- Sale – Selling 25 pounds or less is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. Fines and prison sentences increase with the amount of marijuana.
- Cultivation – Growing marijuana falls under “manufacture” and is usually treated as a third degree felony if there are less than 25 plants. However, felony charges get more serious as the number of plants increase:
- 25 to 300 plants – up to 15 years and a maximum fine of $10000
- 300 to 2000 plants – 3 to 15 years and a maximum fine of $25000
- 2000 to 10,000 plants – 7 to 30 years and a maximum fine of $50000
If the offense takes place within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, or other specified areas, it is a felony punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 15 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
History of Marijuana in Florida
Being one of the southernmost states in the US, it’s not surprising that Florida had such a turbulent history with marijuana, even though it is not native to the state. During the prohibition in the 1930s, the first commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger, used a number of gruesome crimes in his propaganda against marijuana. In a particularly bloody murder case in Tampa, Anslinger blamed marijuana for driving a certain Victor Licata into a killing spree. However, Licata’s medical records revealed that his mental illness and not marijuana was responsible for his actions.
Nevertheless, Anslinger continued to use such violent offenses, which were later on discredited, to turn the public’s opinion against cannabis, calling it names such as “the devil weed”. He was also instrumental in Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
Despite the federal government’s war on drugs, Florida saw a resurgence of weed in the 60s and 70s. Around this time, marijuana was being smuggled into cities like Miami by the ton from places like Jamaica. Florida’s cannabis gray market boomed, fueled by smuggling and homegrown weed. In fact, the “Gainesville Green” strain became one of the most sought after due to its potency.
Florida’s illegal weed trade just kept on getting worse through the 80s. So much so that Everglades City, a small fishing town west of Miami became one of the most notorious dropoff points of marijuana from Colombia. It was also one of the hardest hit by the federal government’s War on Drugs.
Finally, in the 90s, a landmark case involving home cultivation significantly contributed to the efforts to legalize medical marijuana. That year, the Jenks in Panama Beach were busted for growing medical marijuana for their AIDS symptoms. Thankfully, they were able to appeal their conviction and were acquitted the next year. In 1999, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a “medical necessity” could be used as a defense in some marijuana cases. This became an important precedent that came at a time when the medical community was already calling for serious studies into the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
A number of Florida cities were already mulling decriminalization in ‘00s but it took a decade before any significant changes were made to Florida marijuana laws. In 2013-2014, an initiative to legalize medical cannabis, known as Amendment 2, lost with a narrow margin. However, around this time, Gov. Rick Scott also signed into law the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act”. Also known as Senate Bill 1030, it permitted the use of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil extracted from the Charlotte’s Web strain.
Finally, in 2016, Gov. Scott signed House Bill 307 which expands the Right to Try Act to include medical cannabis. In the same year, Amendment 2 was once more put to a vote and won 71.3% to 28.7%. However, the law did make home cultivation legal for patients and caregivers. In between 2015 to 2019, a number of cities and counties also approved their own decriminalization ordinances.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Florida
How do Florida marijuana laws compare with those in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in Florida
No, adult-use cannabis is still illegal in Florida. However, a number of counties have already lowered penalties for simple possession.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not allowed in Florida.
Yes, medical cannabis is already legal in Florida.
None. Home cultivation of medical cannabis is not allowed in Florida.
Florida lawmakers Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Sen. Jeff Brandes, and Sen. Gary M. Farmer introduced earlier this year HB 343, SB 710, SB 664 respectively. These bills aim to legalize recreational marijuana for those aged 21 and older and establish a free-market regulatory approach to the governance of both medical and adult-use cannabis.
Residents are not allowed to cultivate marijuana, whether recreational or medical, at home in Florida.
Only adult workers employed by a licensed marijuana production entity may legally cultivate cannabis in Florida.
At present, there are two bills seeking to make recreational marijuana legal in Florida. However, none are aiming to give Floridians the right to grow at home, perhaps due to the fact that most marijuana reform bills filed after the COVID pandemic focus more on the tax generation aspect of legalization. It is also said that the state’s legalization efforts are backed mostly by big corporations looking to monopolize Florida’s adult-use market. While it is clear that recreational marijuana is on the horizon within a few years, the motive behind it leans more towards state and corporate profit and is thus not likely to include home cultivation.