There are as many political debates occurring in this country as there are stars in the heavens. That is one of the advantages to living in the U.S. – we are afforded liberties that are not always found in other countries. We can choose to take a stance and voice our opinions regarding virtually any topic without fear of reprisals from our government because of our right to freedom of speech. One major debate that is less cut-and-dried than our right to free speech is also one that has raged for decades. That is whether or not Cannibis should be legalized. No matter what you call it – weed, pot, marijuana, or by the terms reggie bush or dro which seem to be popular here in South Florida – there are darned few people who are on the fence about its legalization because there is more than one school of thought on the matter. Some proponents feel that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with smoking weed; there are those who feel that there are substantial medical benefits to using it; and then there are those who feel strongly that it is a “gateway” drug and should remain illegal.
It is hard to believe that there could be so much contention about this homely yet multi-purpose plant. That’s right, multi-purpose. Anyone old enough to read this knows what the primary use of this plant is, at least here in the U.S. Its value throughout history, however, has been substantially greater than just getting blazed. People have been cultivating marijuana for nearly as long as people have been practicing sustainable agriculture. For more than 3,500 years, Cannabis has been used as an entheogen. In other words, it was and still remains an important component that has been utilized in spiritual or religion rituals. Records of its use for this purpose are widespread, with a documented history appearing in Nepal, India, Africa, Greece, and China, among other countries.
Another popular use of Cannabis is for industrial fiber. Just a few of the applications that this fiber provides are paper, textiles, and clothing (usually when mixed with other types of fibers). It can also be transformed into certain food products. Sounds like great stuff, doesn’t it? After all, there have been movies made about it, songs that sing its praises, and it is a multi-billion dollar industry in this country alone. In the words of a famous TV pitchman, “But wait, there’s more!” There is an ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, debate about the psychoactive effects of certain types of Cannabis, which accounts, in large part, for that very industry. Although Cannabis has been around since the dawn of man, no one seems to be able to agree on whether is it a scourge on humanity or like fairy dust – a boon to all who encounter it. The studies that have been conducted upon this scraggly weed have been voluminous and the resultant data seems too often be vastly different.
What is generally agreed upon is that Cannabis contains cannabinoids which are chemical compounds that act upon the brain. The most commonly known of these is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This compound is a known analgesic and also acts to increase appetite and relaxation while lowering levels of aggression. Although these results are seemingly positive ones, the controversy about the how beneficial these psychoactive effects are is still vehemently contested. There are those who feel that Cannabis is no more dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. Yet there are other studies that have indicated that its use over an extended period of time can result in short-term memory loss, distorted perception, and loss of balance, among other issues. Let’s face it. Just like with alcohol and other mood-altering substances, if it didn’t have the effects that it does, no one would use it either recreationally or for medicinal purposes.
While only two states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized the use of Cannabis, 23 others as well as Washington D.C. have tried to balance its beneficial effects in treating certain conditions by passing legislation to allow its use strictly for medicinal purposes. Even then, only one of its three distinct species is permitted. C. indica is allowed in these states and then only under certain circumstances. The reason for the distinction is that it is believed that this particular species has a lower level of THC. This curtails the psychoactive effects associated with C. sativa, yet still provides relief in a variety of ways for myriad maladies. Last year, legislation was drafted in an attempt to get marijuana legalized in the state of Florida, at least for medicinal use. With all of the hype surrounding the issue, some people believe that it is now legal; however, it failed by a slim margin, much to the disappointment of many Florida residents. Consequently, it is still illegal and can carry some pretty stiff penalties if you are found in possession of it.
One penalty is if a police officer initiates a traffic stop of someone who is not born in the U.S., he or she could face deportation if found to be possessing marijuana. This is a matter of great concern to Florida with its tremendous ethnic diversity because it is no longer necessary that you be convicted of felony possession before you can be deported, nor is it relevant whether you are here legally or otherwise. Something as seemingly insignificant as a misdemeanor charge can result in deportation without a conviction. This is true even if you are found to have a small amount intended strictly for personal use. This is outrageous when you consider that those who are born American citizens can only be stripped of citizenship for acts of treason, becoming a naturalized citizen in a foreign country, or performing service in a foreign military. Many drivers are aware that the Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable search and seizure, but a lot of people fail to realize is that this only protects our home. If you are in possession of marijuana during a traffic stop or even if the police officer suspects that you are, it is often going to result in a no-win situation for you. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that if you get pulled over for a traffic violation and a cop says he smells marijuana (or if he sees drug paraphernalia), this provides probable cause. He can then search your vehicle without a search warrant. If he asks if he can search your car and you refuse, just like stating that he “smelled” weed, the cop can also use this refusal as probable cause.
A traffic stop that involves marijuana possession by an illegal or naturalized citizen that results in possible deportation is a federal law, but one of the great things about this country is that everyone is entitled to a fair defense. If you have been charged with possession during a traffic stop, give us a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation. Your citizenship is worth defending.