With the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida, state residents with qualifying medical conditions can now find relief from their symptoms. However, MMJ card carriers may still run into some issues with law enforcement when driving with medical marijuana in Florida. Since recreational marijuana is still illegal on state and federal levels, it is important to understand current regulations and how to properly exercise your rights.
1. It is Legal to Drive with Medical Marijuana in your Car
According to Florida medical marijuana law, MMJ card carriers may transport medical marijuana in their vehicles in Florida. This means patients can carry their prescription with them in the car if they’re driving home from a dispensary or if they need to take their prescription with them when traveling in Florida.
It is important to note that driving with marijuana in your car is only legal when it was acquired legally through a dispensary. It is still illegal to transport marijuana that was not prescribed and purchased through a dispensary, even if you are a medical marijuana cardholder.
2. It is Illegal to Drive while Medicated or Medicating
Although Florida law allows cardholders to transport medical marijuana in their car, the law prohibits the use of and being under the influence of medical marijuana while driving. This means that medical marijuana cardholders cannot use their prescription to medicate while they are driving, or be medicated while they are driving.
According to Florida Statute Section 381.986, registered cardholders cannot use or administer medical marijuana in any of the following places:
- On public transportation
- In a public place or area
- At a place of employment, unless the patient is permitted by his or her employer
- In a state correctional facility
- On school grounds, including preschools
- On a school bus
- In a vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat.
At the moment, there is no sobriety test available that a law enforcement officer can use to prove a driver is under the influence of marijuana. However, this does not mean an officer cannot charge a driver with a DUI. MMJ card carriers who are “driving high” or using medical marijuana while driving can be charged with a DUI if pulled over by law enforcement if the driver’s behavior shows impairment. This means that drivers may be found guilty of a DUI if the law enforcement officer can prove that the driver was drowsy or impaired while driving.
When medicated, it is best to use common sense if you are deciding whether or not to drive. If you have used your medical marijuana, make sure you are no longer under its effect before you drive. If you happen to be outside of your home and need to medicate, make sure you are not in your car and are somewhere outside of public view.
3. Marijuana Smells Still Count as Probable Cause
In the state of Florida, the smell of marijuana alone has been considered enough to justify a probable cause search by law enforcement. However, with the legalization of hemp and medical cannabis, this has become somewhat of a legal gray area. Because hemp and marijuana both have similar smells, it is impossible to tell if the odor is coming from a legal or illegal substance.
Though state law still dictates that the smell of cannabis is enough probable cause for a search, many law enforcement agencies are discouraging officers from searching vehicles based on smell alone.
After the legalization of hemp this past July, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg announced that the smell of marijuana is no longer probable cause for a search in Palm Beach County. Other state attorneys in Florida have followed suit, announcing that they will no longer issue search warrants based on cannabis odor. However, officers still have the right to search and seize evidence based on probable cause if marijuana products are in plain view.
While it is becoming less and less likely for law enforcement to search a vehicle based on the smell of cannabis, it is still not against the law in every Florida county. However, there is hope that state law will change in the coming years.
4. You Should Always Carry your MMJ Card with You
If you are carrying medical cannabis with you in your car or anywhere else, you should always have your MMJ card with you. In the event that you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer with medical marijuana products in your car, you may be required to show proof that you are a registered patient. Police officers can also check the Medical Marijuana Use Registry (MMU registry) to confirm that you are a registered patient.
Though it is unlikely a police officer will charge you with a crime if you are transporting medical marijuana as a registered patient, it is always best to avoid any encounters by leaving your prescription at home or carrying your MMJ card with you when transporting any products.
5. Legal Counsel is Available
In the event that you are charged with possession of marijuana, whether or not you are a registered medical marijuana patient, legal counsel is available. If you have an upcoming court case or just have questions about medical marijuana laws in Florida, the attorneys at the ALC Marijuana Law Division are here for you.
Contact the Marijuana Law Division attorneys today at (305) 255-FIRM.