States across the country have set a testable limit on the level of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream as a threshold in lieu of demonstrating impairment. While .08 has been established as a baseline legal limit for alcohol, there is no test available to readily measure the amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, that is present in someone’s system. CNN.com took a long look at the issue, and at ongoing efforts to create a test similar to the breathalyzers that measure alcohol for purposes of prosecuting DUIs.
It is against the law for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if the drugs have been prescribed. Florida defines under the influence as “under the influence to the extent that normal faculties are impaired,” and other states use similar definitions. That’s why law enforcement use field sobriety exercises: they are meant to give the officers a chance to observe a driver to see if their faculties appear to be impaired. The shortcoming of those tests is their unreliability and that they are subjective: an officer will see impairment if they are looking for it. The breath and blood alcohol tests at least provide some consistency, though they are not impairment based. Time will tell if science can come up with something comparable for THC and other controlled substances.
Reliance on impairment based tests is challenging for law enforcement when a case goes to trial. Unless the impairment is clear, a jury may be reluctant to find it beyond a reasonable doubt. The subjectivity may matter more in a DUI than any other, and the outcome of a DUI is more dependent on the skill of the attorneys trying the case. The ambiguity cuts both ways, because the subjectivity of the field sobriety testing may lead to an arrest, and there is no dispositive scientific test to disprove the allegation. If a cop thinks you are impaired, you can be arrested, and the case may have to go to a jury trial. It will be interesting as this field becomes more important with the expansion of recreational and medicinal marijuana.
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.
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!
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!
It is Illegal to Possess a Florida Panther* (*Unless you have a permit)
A large cat, apparently a Florida panther, was located in a residential neighborhood in Parkland, Florida and successfully captured by wildlife officials. Residents noticed the cat and contacted authorities, who were able to safely tranquilize and capture the cat. The cat was wearing a collar, which suggests that it may have been an escaped pet. Authorities initially believed the cat was a endangered Florida panther, but there are none permitted in the area. Further consideration suggests it may not have been a Florida panther, a rare subspecies of cougar native to Florida, and under greater protection as an endangered species. The fact that the animal had a collar, and due to the rarity of Florida panthers, particularly in Broward County, (and since none are permitted near there,) it is more likely a common puma, aka cougar.
Cougars/Pumas/Florida Panthers/Catamounts or whatever name you wish to call them… they are still wildlife that requires a permit to be kept in Florida (I believe they qualify as Class I animals, which could present a danger to the public.) Regardless, it is also a violation to fail to keep a permitted animal safely caged or restrained.
via Brandon Beyer
*Update: Apparently, to obtain a permit for Class I animals such as cougars, one must have at least a year of practical experience in the husbandry of that species, or at the genus level (Puma) of cougars and panthers.
Transdev shuttle in Babcock Ranch
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shut down an experimiental student shuttle program that had gotten underway in the new town of Babcock Ranch, in southern Charlotte County, Florida. The town had been advertising the autonomous student shuttle, which picked up students and transported them to school one day per week. While Transdev, the company that operates the shuttle had gotten permission from NHTSA to utilize the shuttles for a demo project, using the project as a school bus requires substantially more oversight from regulators. And even though they are calling it a shuttle, it ferries multiple children to school, so it certainly qualifies as a school bus.
I guess the good news is, I have not heard any complaints about the shuttle experiment in Babcock Ranch, and more importantly, no indications of any injuries. Perhaps they can continue the autonomous shuttle project in the town, just not as a school shuttle until it complies with the safety regulations. They are trying a lot of new things in Babcock Ranch, ‘America’s First Solar Town’, and there are going to be hiccups and growing pains… so it’s probably not best to try it out on the kids.
UPDATE: The News-Press has picked the story up, with some comments from Babcock developer Syd Kitson.