| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

Is Smokable Marijuana Illegal to Possess in Florida?

There is a still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Florida’s slow-moving efforts to implement the legalization of medical marijuana. Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment last November stating that the “medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver” should not be subject to civil or criminal liability under state law. But Florida lawmakers, in adopting rules to implement the amendment, nonetheless decided to forbid patients from using marijuana in the easiest and most common way–i.e., smoking it. Legislators Reject Smoking, Approve Vaping and Tincture Although the active ingredient in marijuana–known as THC–can be consumed in many forms, most people associate marijuana use with “smoking a joint,” i.e. inhaling the vapors released by burning a cigarette containing cannabis plants. The constitutional amendment approved by voters states that nothing in the amendment shall require the state or local governments to permit “smoking medical marijuana in any public place.” But the amendment is otherwise silent on whether smokable marijuana should or should not be a legal form of medical cannabis. Following a special session to address the issue, Florida legislators decided to exclude smoking marijuana from the definition of lawful “medical use.” Instead, under a bill approved by both houses on June 9, authorized patients cannot possess or use any cannabis products that are not “purchased or acquired from a medical marijuana treatment center” licensed by the state. And these dealers may not sell smokable marijuana or joints. One Florida lawmaker told the press that the ban on smoked marijuana was justified for health reasons. “Breathing in soot, breathing in ash, carries a definite detriment, which we didn’t want to extend to medical marijuana,” state Rep. Carey Pigman told WCTV-TV. Another legislator, state Sen. Jeff Clemens, said that “when 90 percent of patients access a product one way and the state does not allow that, then they are not instituting the will of the voters,” according to U.S. News and World Report. So what are the legal options for medical marijuana patients? The legislature did approve “vaping,” which is where cannabis flowers are heated to a temperature just below their combustion point. This is considered by many experts to be safer than smoking traditional marijuana cigarettes, since vaping does not force the patient to inhale potentially toxic chemicals. The legislature also authorized cannabis “edibles” and tincture. Edibles must be a commercially produced food item using only marijuana oil and are not marketed “to be attractive to children.” Tincture is a type of cannabis-infused alcohol that some medical marijuana patients prefer as a lower-calorie alternative to edibles. Have You Been Charged With Illegal Marijuana Possession in Florida? The legislature’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unlikely to be the last word on the subject. John Morgan, the Florida attorney who was a key supporter of the original constitutional amendment, said he would “be suing the state to allow smoke,” which he said was always the intent of the measure. But at least for now, possessing a joint is still a crime under federal and state law, even with a doctor’s authorization. If you or a family member are in legal trouble for possession of marijuana, you need to speak with a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced drug crimes lawyers.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

THC DUI Blood Test Bill Proposed in Florida

Florida legislators continue to struggle with last year’s decision by voters to legalize medicinal cannabis through an amendment to the state constitution. Some legislators, concerned that medical marijuana might lead to a rash of people “driving while stoned,” have proposed new laws to expand existing DUI laws to cover THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. However, medical and law enforcement experts caution that alcohol and marijuana are not interchangeable, and methods used to detect the former will not work the latter. Are Blood Tests Effective for Marijuana? On January 12, state Rep. David Silvers of West Palm Beach filed House Bill 237, a measure that would expand Florida’s existing DIU laws to cover driving under the influence of THC. Specifically, HB 237 proposes that a person is illegally “driving under the influence” if he or she has a “blood level of 5 nanograms or more” of THC per “milliliter of blood.” This would apply to both operating a motor vehicle or a boat. Thousands of bills are introduced every year in the Florida legislature. Most are never passed and die while pending before a committee or subcommittee. Silvers’ HB 237 was referred to a House subcommittee on January 23 and has not been acted upon since. One reason for the lack of action may be the questionable science behind using blood tests to determine whether a marijuana user is incapable of safely operating a car or boat. Law enforcement has decades of proven experience using blood and breath tests for alcohol impairment. But THC is a much different creature than alcohol. According to a 2016 report from NPR, while “[m]easuring the volume of alcohol in one part of your body can predictably tell you how much is in any other part of your body,” the same is not true of THC. Marijuana intoxication does not work as uniformly. For one thing, THC is soluble in fat, which means it can accumulate in fatty tissues–such as the brain–even after it has left the person’s bloodstream. And if THC is consumed without smoking it–e.g., eating a “pot brownie”–there will be no trace of it whatsoever in the blood. As one researcher told NPR, state legislators want to come up with “one number” to define marijuana intoxication–as HB 237 does with “5 nanograms”–but the science simply does not support such a standard. The researcher noted that while “[o]ccasional users can be very impaired at one microgram per liter,” chronic users, including possibly individuals taking prescribed medical cannabis, “will be over one microgram per liter maybe for weeks.” Have You Been Charged With an Orlando DUI? Given the state of the science, HB 237 is unlikely to become law in is present form. Even its sponsor told the Miami New Times that he “had not reviewed studies” on the issue and was open to amending the bill. Remember, even without this legislation, DUI based on alcohol remains a serious criminal offense. If you have been arrested and charged with DUI, it is imperative you speak with a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney right away. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150 to speak with a lawyer right away.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

The Dangers of Narcotics

Substance and drug crimes are a major concern for Florida law enforcement. In Orlando and around the state there have been a number of major drug busts recently targeting heroin, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). The message is clear: possessing and distributing dangerous narcotics will put you in serious legal jeopardy. Here are just some of the Florida drug arrests reported in just the past few weeks: On March 1, Lee County sheriff’s deputies “found over $1 million worth of marijuana” in the car of a 51-year-old man, who was arrested for drug trafficking. On March 11, Orange County sheriff’s deputies arrested two people as part of a larger operation that yielded nine arrests in Florida and New Hampshire. According to news reports, the two Orange County arrests were for possession of an unspecified narcotic drug. On March 16, an Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputy smelled marijuana on a boat docked at a local beach. The deputy subsequently arrested two teenagers on the boat for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, which allegedly included a bong being held by one of the defendants. On March 21, St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputies [recovered 1.3 pounds of heroin] and other synthetic opioids from a residence in Fort Pierce, Florida. A 31-year-old man was charged with heroin trafficking. St. Lucie County law enforcement also arrested approximately 100 people as part of a “highway interdiction operation” near a recent music festival held in Okeechobee County. Police pulled over people, ostensibly for traffic violations, which was a pretext to look for evidence of drug activity. On March 22, Hollywood police raided two stores in a South Florida strip mall, where they arrested at least two people on charges of selling drugs. Orlando Is a Prime Target for Drug Enforcement Overall, about 130,000 people are arrested in Florida each year for drug-related crimes, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Most of these arrests are for simple possession rather than drug trafficking. African-Americans are also charged in significantly higher numbers relative to their share of the general population. Floridians are also at a greater risk of facing federal drug crimes charges than residents of many other states. According to the most recent National Drug Threat Assessment published by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Orlando and Miami are commonly used as “ports of arrival” for cocaine and heroin imported by criminal organizations from Colombia, Mexico, and other parts of Central America and the Caribbean. Of particular note, the DEA said there has been a recent “increase in drug-laden parcels from [Puerto Rico] to Orlando. All of these should serve as a warning to anyone contemplating buying or using dangerous drugs. Unfortunately, many of these law enforcement operations end up ensnaring innocent people who have done nothing wrong. And even where there is evidence to support possible drug charges, police act in a manner that may be illegal or unconstitutional. That is why if you are facing any type of state or federal drug charge, you have the right to speak to an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney. Call Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150 to discuss your case with us and how we can help.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Rise in Heroin Overdoses in Orange County in 2017

For the past several years, Florida has been a key battleground in the government’s efforts to combat illegal drug use. While recreational drugs like marijuana tend to draw the most attention from the press, the more serious problem of opiate and heroin abuse has rapidly become the top priority for law enforcement and public health officials. Heroin vs. Legal Opiates Morphine is a naturally occurring opiate–pain medication–found in many plants. While morphine is incredibly helpful in treating patients with moderate-to-severe pain, it is also highly addictive. For this reason, the legal prescription and distribution of morphine is heavily regulated by state and federal authorities. Heroin is an illegal form of morphine. According to the National Institutes of Health, heroin sold in Florida and throughout the eastern United States is primarily imported from South America. Heroin has become increasingly popular in Florida as authorities have cracked down on the over-prescription of legal opiates. How Bad is Florida’s Heroin Problem? A reported prepared by the National Governors Association said approximately 586,000 people in the United States are addicted to heroin. Since 2001, there has been a 200 percent increase of overdose deaths attributed to heroin or other opiates. That represents more than 60 percent of all overdose deaths. Orlando and Orange County are at the epicenter of this epidemic. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said there were 101 drug overdoses reported in the first six weeks of 2017–70 of which were related to heroin. During the same period in 2016, there were only 28 heroin-related victims out of 63 total reported overdoses. A 2014 Reuters article noted that Florida’s heroin problem is especially widespread among people under the age of 30. As state and federal law enforcement have stemmed the tide of legal prescription pills, heroin has simply taken its place. One health care official said many young people now actively use heroin “in place of prescription pain pills.” What Are the Legal Risks of Using Heroin? Heroin is not something to mess around with. Possession of 10 ounces or less of heroin is a third-degree felony under Florida law punishable by up to 5 years in prison. In contrast, possession of 20 grams of marijuana is only a misdemeanor punishable by no more than 1 year in jail. And if you are caught selling, delivering, or manufacturing heroin, you can be charged with a second-degree felony and, if convicted, sentenced up to 15 years in prison. If you have been charged with heroin possession, you need to remain calm and contact a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Police often make mistakes in drug cases, such as conducting an illegal search or misidentifying a legal substance as heroin. You need a lawyer by your side who understands the law and will stand up for your rights. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at 407-377-0150 if you need to speak with a lawyer today.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Drug Charges

“Cops and Donuts” Stereotype Takes on New Meaning in Florida

At first glance, it sounds like nothing more than a funny misunderstanding: Orlando police officers cannot tell the difference between donut glaze and illegal drugs. After all, if anyone should know donuts by sight, it is a cop. But last year, an Orlando man was on his way home from a local convenience store – where he had purchased a Krispy Kreme donut – when he was pulled over for speeding. During the stop, the 11 year veteran police officer saw a “rock like substance” on the driver’s seat. Know where this is going? The officer tested the sugary substance, and it was incorrectly identified as amphetamines. Well, as it turns out, the substance was actually part of the donut’s glaze, and this poor man who just wanted a donut suddenly found himself arrested and charged with felony drug possession. Not surprisingly, the victim is now suing, casting light on the bigger issue of widespread roadside drug test abuse. Poor Training Leads to False Arrest Several weeks later, a Florida state crime lab re-tested the “drugs” and revealed its true origin as donut glaze. Prosecutors dropped the criminal charges. The victim recently filed a lawsuit against the City of Orlando and the the company that produced the roadside drug test used by the police officer. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the officer did not administer the test properly. In fact, “[s]he used the wrong type of kit” for one of the tests, and she failed to conduct a second test “with a different kit to confirm the results.” The officer was also disciplined for filing an incorrect arrest report. After initial news reports surfaced about this case last year, the Orlando Police Department ordered all of its officers to undergo additional training on using its drug kits. Shockingly, the officer who could not distinguish between glaze and meth never received such training. Abuse of Roadside Drug Tests is Widespread But is there more to this story than just a poorly trained police officer? Late last year, the nonprofit news organization ProPublica published a series of articles in conjunction with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the New York Times about widespread problems with roadside drug testing kits. ProPublica said that according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s own figure, “21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all.” In other words, there’s a fair amount of “donut glaze” sitting in Florida’s crime labs. The ProPublica report did confirm that many officers lack proper training. For example, officers in the Hillsborough County, Florida, sheriff’s department “had simply misunderstood which colors indicated a positive result.” But the field tests themselves are not reliable, even when properly administered. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice has advised against the use of field tests as evidence in drug cases since 1978! Have You Been Falsely Accused of a Drug Crime? Unfortunately, these tests remain popular with local law enforcement. And even though they are unreliable, prosecutors can coerce guilty pleas from innocent defendants based on their results. According to ProPublica, “prosecutors in 9 of 10 jurisdictions…accepted guilty pleas based solely on the result of field tests.” Do not let yourself become another statistic. If you have been charged with a drug crime based on false or unreliable evidence, you need to speak with an Orlando criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at (407) 377-0150. CC image by Public Information Office at Flickr

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

Take Two of These and Call me in the Morning: Florida’s New Medical Marijuana Laws

On January 3, 2017, Amendment 2 expanded the qualifying medical conditions for obtaining medical marijuana. The Department of Health Office of Compassionate Use is the government agency responsible for creating the regulatory structure for Medical Marijuana.  The development of these new regulations are still in the works.   So, in the meantime, we are still stuck with the old Florida Statute for low THC and medical use – Florida Statute 381.986: A physician is authorized to order low-THC cannabis to treat a qualified patient suffering from cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms; order low-THC cannabis to alleviate symptoms of such disease, disorder, or condition… The Department of Heath Office of Compassionate Use has been working on drafting the new regulations.  The latest version of the new statute (which has not yet been finalized) defines the qualifying conditions for distribution as: (e) “Qualifying debilitating medical condition” shall mean conditions eligible for physician ordering contained in s. 381.986(2), F.S., or cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis. Also, any debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, as determined by the Florida Board of Medicine. Only a qualified physician under the statute and rules set out by the Office of Compassionate Use are authorized to make the diagnosis and provide the patient with a script for medical marijuana.   The Department of Health Office of Compassionate Use has six months to implement the new law and nine months to begin issuing identification cards under the law. In the meantime, the grow houses and dispensaries will be setting up shop for a boom of business to the State of Florida.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

Give your Donut a Bite, but Don’t Make a Meth of It

It was a typical Friday afternoon for D.R., or at least he thought it was going to be a typical Friday afternoon. He was driving in his car.  Stopped into a 7-11. Then left the store and was heading home. Apparently Officers believed that this was a high crime area and D.R. was acting suspicious. That’s when his typical day stopped. Officer McMican, an Orlando Police Officer with eleven years of experience pulled D.R. over for speeding. Now I want to make sure you read that last sentence carefully, Officer McMican has eleven years of law enforcement experience. Officer McMican asked D.R. to step out of his car and when he did she saw, a rock like substance and through her extensive eleven years of experience knew it was a narcotic. Two other OPD officers assisted in the traffic stop and also found that same rock like substance in between the driver seat and the door area.  Supposedly Officer McMican field tested this alleged narcotic and it came back positive for amphetamines.  D.R. denied ever using drugs and told the officers that the substance was sugar from his Krispie Kreme Donut. I’m sure all three officers had a good laugh at D.R. saying it was just a glazed donut. Not so funny anymore. Lab test confirm that the substance was not a controlled substance.  I’m sure a taste test would confirm that it was sugar. Also D.R. is now suing for wrongful arrest. So what was D.R. doing at this high crime area, aka the 7-11. Oh, he had just dropped off his elderly neighbor for her weekly chemotherapy session, as he does every Friday, and stopped at the 7-11 to pick up a friend who works there and drive them home. So according to the police report there were not one, not two, but three officers who saw this rock like substance and believed it to be drugs that turned out to be donuts crumbs.  Moral of the story…use a napkin.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Have You Been Charged with Drug Trafficking?

Most crimes are considered serious crimes, however, amongst the most serious crimes such as murder or rape, are drug crimes. Drug crimes can result in serious consequences and without the right legal representation, you can be sent to prison for decades depending on the drug you possessed or were alleged to have possessed. Even if the drugs were not yours, if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may be charged with the drugs if the true owner does not come forth. That is why it is invaluable to seek legal representation. If you or a loved one have been charged with drug trafficking, contact an experienced Florida criminal law attorney to help you with your case. Drug Trafficking and Possible Legal Defenses Though there have been stiffer laws implemented to keep drugs off of the streets, the truth of the matter is, drugs are still trafficked into Florida every day at an alarming rate. In the United States, as a whole, drugs bring into the black market up to $750 billion a year. Drug trafficking involves the cultivation, manufacturing, and distributing and selling of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Some of the most common drugs charged in drug trafficking include: cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, oxycontin, ecstasy (MDMA), Gamma-hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB), Marijuana, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), and Methamphetamine. In Florida, these laws revolve around the amount of drugs you are trafficking. Florida drug trafficking laws are governed by Florida Statute Section 893.135 and can land you with three to 15 years in prison as well as fines unless your case is governed by the Three Strikes Law. Though these numbers may be overwhelming for you, you may have possible defenses that you can offer on behalf of your case. These defenses consist of: the controlled substance was possessed for personal use and not for distribution or sale; entrapment; whether the drugs were yours; the amount of drugs in possession—which can reduce your drug trafficking charge to simple drug possession; as well as search and seizure violations of the Fourth Amendment. Though these defenses may seem straightforward, they can be complicated. Because of this, it is beyond beneficial to seek legal advice and representation. Need Legal Advice? If you have been charged with drug trafficking, chances are you are looking at some serious time and may be looking at fines as well. Not only is your freedom restricted drastically, but you also, if imprisoned, will lose your job and suffer a strain on your familial relations. We may be able to minimize those consequences or even get some of your charges dismissed. If you or a loved one have been charged with drug trafficking, contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 377-0150 for an initial consultation. Contact our office today.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Criminal Defense

Spice/K2: Overdoses and Consequences for Possession Charges

We are living in a time in which experimentation with drugs is at an all-time high. We are living in an age of experimentation, where the age limits for that experiment is becoming younger and younger. For those in Florida, drug usage has become one of the top experiments for those between the ages of 12 and 21. In recent weeks, Florida has seen an increase in the usage of a new synthetic marijuana drug called Spice or K2, though laboratory made, synthetic marijuana is illegal. If you or a loved one have been charged with possession of Spice, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Florida criminal law attorney to help you fight for your rights. What is Spice and Why are People Overdosing? In recent weeks, Florida has seen an unprecedented amount of overdoses, mostly of teenagers and young adults, caused by a synthetic marijuana called Spice or K2. Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of herbs and manmade chemicals known as cannabinoids. Most of the chemicals used in this process are labeled unsafe for human consumption, yet teenagers and young adults are experimenting with them. Spice is dangerous because you do not always know what you are getting. Recently, it was reported that more than a dozen people became sick from Spice. Six were taken to the hospital and over two dozen had to be treated by paramedics, their injuries consisting of stomach aches, vomiting, and shaking. The overdoses are related to the chemicals that are used to make synthetic marijuana and remain unsafe. Is Spice Illegal? It is true that Spice is difficult to regulate because the chemicals change so often and are manufactured in clandestine labs that make shipments throughout the world. Though difficult to regulate, Florida Statute Section 893.03(1)(c) makes it a First Degree Misdemeanor for possessing synthetic drugs if under three grams, and a Third Degree Felony if you possess more than three grams of synthetic marijuana. If convicted, your punishment may consist of: imprisonment up to five years; up to five years of probation; up to $5,000 fines; as well as the suspension of your license. Because of this, if you are charged with the above, it is best to seek legal representation. Need Legal Advice? Whether you know it by Spice, K2, or synthetic marijuana, one thing is for certain: it is dangerous and detrimental to not only your health, but also your freedom. If charged and convicted of possession with Spice, the consequences are many. It is important that if you have been charged with the possession of Spice to contact Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law at (407) 377-0150 for an initial consultation. Let us help you strategize about the best possible outcomes for your case.  

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Drug Charges

Future Marijuana Laws in Florida

It seems like every day another state is legalizing marijuana. Will Florida be the next state to update its legislation involving marijuana? Marijuana laws that deal with medical marijuana and marijuana for recreational use have been a hot topic in Florida. It is important to remember that as of right now, marijuana has not been legalized in Florida. Thus, if a person is found with marijuana, they can still be charged and convicted of a controlled substance crime. Until marijuana legislation is changed, a person should understand the current laws so that they do not find themselves behind bars. Florida’s Current Drug Law Under Florida’s current drug law, marijuana is considered a controlled substance. A person cannot sell, manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to sell a controlled substance. If a person is convicted of this crime, he or she will be convicted of a felony in the third degree. If a person possesses under 20 grams, then it will only be a misdemeanor. However, if a person possesses over 25 pounds, then it is viewed as trafficking and the person can face a first-degree marijuana charge. The minimum first-degree marijuana charge can carry a prison sentence of up to three years in jail and a $25,000 fine. A marijuana trafficking charge can carry a sentence of up to 15 years in jail and a fine of $200,000. What the Bill Would Do If Florida’s bill becomes a law, it would mean that marijuana would no longer be considered a controlled substance, which would make it just like any other plant in the state. Medical marijuana has gained support recently in Florida in hopes that it will not hit another setback like it did in 2014. In the meantime, two Democrats introduced legislation in the Senate and the House back in September. The laws differ from traditional marijuana laws in that they simply would take marijuana off the list of controlled substances instead of creating a program where the state can tax the individuals. Even if these bills become law, the federal prohibition against marijuana will still exist. However, this would be seen as an additional step toward getting rid of the federal ban altogether. For instance, law enforcement makes 99 of 100 marijuana busts under state law. Thus, if there are no state bans in Florida then there will essentially be no charges because the federal government lacks the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state support. Drug Charges in Florida With the many changes in marijuana laws throughout the United States, it may seem hard to keep track of what drug is legal or illegal and where. If you have been charged with a drug crime you need a legal defense team to stand by your side and defend your freedoms. Our attorneys at Moses and Rooth have a great deal of experience working on drug-related cases. We are available to take your call at 407-377-0150 and provide you with a complimentary consultation.

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