Category Archives: Drugs

DeSantis Poised to Reform Medical Marijuana Soon: but People will Still go to Jail if they Don’t have a Prescription

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana: with over 71% of voters in favor. However, the state government has slow-rolled the medical marijuana licensing process, effectively making it difficult for everyone who might need the medical marijuana to get it as quickly as possible. They have also placed many burdensome restrictions on obtaining it, the most notable being that it is very hard to be able to simply smoke marijuana in leaf form. The system in place funnels people to using oils and other derivatives, and restricts the number of licenses for the dispensaries where prescriptions are available, making the limited licenses potentially very lucrative for the lucky few who can set up shop. This probably makes it far more expensive and difficult for sufferers to get the marijuana they need.

This resulted in a lawsuit against Florida from medical marijuana users challenging the legislation enacted to allow medical marijuana, alleging that it is insufficient and doesn’t follow the clear intent of the voters. That lawsuit was successful, but changes have not been enforced as the previous administration chose to appeal the ruling. That’s an expensive way for our own state government to avoid the will of the people and to dodge the intent of our constitution.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis

New Governor Ron DeSantis, who has hit the ground running in Tallahassee, has given out indications he plans to make an about face on the State’s position. DeSantis said of the smoking ban, “I think a lot of voters were frustrated… […] They think there’s been a lot of foot dragging.  So my job is, when the people speak, you have to listen. This was not an amendment that was really that close. It was like 72 percent.” DeSantis and his advisers have indicated an announcement is coming up, and that changes will be made in how the state is carrying out the medical marijuana amendment. It is believed the announcement may include dropping the appeal. One of his advisors even tweeted the hashtag, #nosmokeisajoke indicating support for a change in policy that would allow medical users to smoke.

With DeSantis and other republicans on board, the movement appears to have some bipartisan support. We just covered democrat Nikki Fried, the new Agriculture Commissioner, who is also pushing to change the regulatory scheme for medical marijuana. It should be something that both sides agree on, that people who have a medical need and a prescription, ought to be able to get the marijuana they need to help their condition. That’s the compassionate, and most cost-effective, approach.

As always, a reminder that marijuana still requires a prescription to possess or to smoke. If you don’t have a card, it’s a crime that will subject you to arrest, and possible jail time, not to mention a mandatory driver’s license suspension. Call an attorney right away if you get in trouble, this is the kind of thing an experienced criminal law attorney can help you with!

Marijuana Update for Florida: Still a Crime

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Nikki Fried

Don’t forget, it is still a crime to possess marijuana or anything marijuana related in the State of Florida. New Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried announced yesterday she is going to name a cannabis director to oversee issues related to medical marijuana, agricultural hemp and marijuana edibles. I’m sharing this not just to highlight her efforts to improve the regulatory system for Floridians, which we support, but to remind everyone that it is still a crime to possess marijuana without that card. Even a little bit of marijuana is a crime, even a pipe is a crime, and any amount of oil containing THC is a felony. Conviction for any drug offense also carries a mandatory driver’s license suspension.

The fact that Florida has medical marijuana does not mean that it’s OK to carry around some weed. The laws are still being enforced, and sometimes aggressively. If you do get caught, contact your attorney right away!

Punta Gorda Lawyer Suspended due to Incarceration

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Steven Burch

Attorney Steven Burch, who had about 44 cases pending, primarily in Charlotte County, has been suspended indefinitely by the Florida Bar. Burch was indicted on federal drug trafficking charges in 2016, but continued to practice until recently. He was incarcerated after new charges were added, and his bond was revoked for violation of pretrial release conditions. Burch had arranged for a client to send the drugs, allegedly to then try to cooperate with law enforcement to get out of his own DUI charge. He had his client arrange to ship heroin, which he then disclosed to law enforcement. Unbeknownst to him, his client’s wife recorded the arrangement, and Burch ended up going down. He entered a plea to conspiracy to distribute, and faces up to 20 years in prison on that charge.

I’m going to tag this “reverse entrapment”, as it wasn’t law enforcement that set a guy up… it was his own attorney. And this will almost certainly, hopefully, be the only time I use that tag! Though, it is kind of similar to the Easter case from California

The First ‘Lake Boyz’ Racketeering Trial is drawing to a Close

Closing arguments are under way in the Racketeering trial of four men who are allegedly members of the “Lake Boyz” gang that have been charged as part of a major organized crime case in Fort Myers. There are so many co-defendants, that the court decided to separate them into multiple trials, and the first group is facing trial, four men, who all have trafficking charges, and one of them has additional drug sale charges. To prove racketeering, that is “RICO”, similar to the type of case that you might see from a mob or other organized crime prosecution, the State has to prove that there is an ongoing criminal operation, and that each of the defendants committed crimes in furtherance of that ongoing criminal operation.

The challenge for prosecutors, which was apparent from the initial warrants in the present case, is that while the State can prove that these defendants have committed prior crimes, there is a challenge in proving that the crimes were in furtherance of the criminal prosecution. Some of the prior offenses are as insignificant as marijuana possession, and it’s hard to demonstrate that simple possession is in furtherance of a criminal enterprise. A lot of crimes can be in furtherance of a criminal episode: drug sales, stealing for profit, violence to support gang activities: the challenge for the state is to prove to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt that these crimes were committed in furtherance of the criminal activity.

Many times to make that showing, the government will use an informant. Sometimes they are able to embed an undercover agent into the criminal enterprise, which is nice as they are generally able to give more credible testimony (think Donnie Brasco). However, that’s difficult, dangerous and expensive. Other times, the government will rely on a criminal informant, who may be willing to cooperate due to facing their own criminal charges, or because they are being paid for their assistance. Either way, informants can be less reliable witnesses, but they can be important for the state to prove that there is a criminal enterprise, and that crimes were committed in furtherance of the enterprise… in this case, a gang.

The State utilized several informants in their case against the alleged Lake Boyz on trial the last three weeks. However, the testimony of the informants was not as strong as they likely would have hoped. Listening to the closing arguments, it sounds like they denied knowledge of any of the Defendants being in the gang, working for the gang, taking orders from the gang, or doing things for the benefit of the gang. The State flipped one of the co-defendants as one of their informants, and he denied being a gang member. I didn’t get to see all the evidence, and I’m not on the jury, but the State has a big hurdle to clear in this case, in spite of the gang signs and rap videos. They have a problem trying to prove the enterprise, and the furtherance of the enterprise, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Closing arguments will wrap up this evening, and then it will be in the jury’s hands. I’m sure they will try to wrap it up tonight, but the judge has indicated he’s willing to come back over the weekend to finish the trial.

Florida Man Dances Naked through Fire, Attacks Officers

John Hennessey 2

John Hennessey

Naked Florida Man stories are going to become passé before long. This time, John Hennessey was found completely naked, holding a knife while chanting and dancing around a fire. At one point, he actually stood in the fire, chanting gibberish all the time. He had allegedly broken a window of a home and tried to set a vehicle on fire. Officers tried to rescue him, and he dropped the knife but then allegedly grabbed a large stick that he used to assault officers. Cape officers were able to use a Taser to subdue him, and he was arrested and taken for treatment before being booked. There were indications he had taken psychedelic mushrooms prior to the incident. He’s facing charges of Aggravated Assault (X2), Criminal Mischief, Resisting with Violence, and an additional count of Aggravated Assault on a law enforcement officer.

 

John Hennessey

Hennessey, via DOC

Hennessey is already on Community Control (which is like house arrest) for several charges out of Levy county, including drugs and aggravated assault. This reminds me of the crazy naked guy from North Fort Myers from a few years ago. This is the second naked man story in Florida in just a few weeks…

Florida Man Gets Naked and Attacks Couple with Rake

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Maurice Castaneda

Bill and Crystal Colwell were sitting at home minding their own business, when a naked man with a rake barged into their house. Crystal tossed a hatchet to her husband, but he grabbed a hammer out of his truck and “went to town” trying to fight the guy off. The guy, Maurice Castaneda, (or Castanedo) got several licks in with the rake, and Colwell suffered several lumps on the head and puncture wounds on his back and shoulder. The rake was shattered from the force of the attack.

maurice castanedo

Maurice Castanedo, via DOC

The Colwell’s suspect the suspect was on drugs. He retrieved his shorts from a nearby swamp and took off. Authorities called out the K-9 and helicopter, and were able to locate him a few streets over. He now faces charges for Burglary, Battery and Assault. Burglary with a Battery is a PBL (punishable by life offense) in Florida. I found a similar name in the Florida prison rolls: Maurice Castanedo has been to prison a couple of times: getting out for a robbery about 2 years ago. (There is another Castaneda, but that individual looks quite different- he happens to be on the sex offender registry). The distinctive Texas tattoo on this neck makes me fairly confident

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“Castanedo” via rapsheets.org

this ‘Castaneda’ is the same as the Castanedo in the prison photos. The recent release date indicates he may be subject to being sentenced as a Prison Releasee Reoffender.

He may plead insanity, or try to use intoxication as a mitigating factor. Normally, voluntary intoxication is not a defense- but if it makes you so crazy as to eliminate intent, they might have a claim! Most likely, he’ll be back in prison for quite a while…

Friday Fun: Florida Woman Blames Wind for Cocaine in her Car

kenneshia posey

Kenneshia Posey

A Fort Pierce woman had a unique excuse for the cocaine officers found in her car last week. Officers found Marijuana and Cocaine in the vehicle Kenneshia Posey was riding in with another person. When they asked her, she admitted the marijuana was hers, but denied knowing anything about the baggie of cocaine. When the officer asked how it got in her purse, she replied, “I don’t know anything about any cocaine. It’s a windy day. It must have flown through the window and into my purse.”

Officers were apparently unimpressed, as she was arrested and charged for both the marijuana and the cocaine.