Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Tampa Criminal Attorney
Free Consultation Call 24/7

If You've Been Arrested in Tampa Bay or Surrounding Areas, We Can Help You Immediately!

Tampa Criminal Attorney > Blog > Criminal Defense > The Brave New World Of Marijuana Possession Cases In Florida

The Brave New World Of Marijuana Possession Cases In Florida


Over the last several years, a marijuana legalization wave has crashed ashore in the United States. But this wave hasn’t directly affected most Florida residents. A few localities, including Tampa, Key West, Orlando, Miami-Dade County, and Sarasota, have decriminalized marijuana possession. But a statewide prohibition remains in effect, with the exception of some medicinal uses.

Nevertheless, the indirect effects of this legalization wave are felt throughout the Sunshine State. That includes the parts of Hillsborough County and other parts of the Tampa Bay area that haven’t decriminalized marijuana. In many cases, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer can use these effects to beat POM (possession of marijuana) cases in court. These indirect impacts could affect many other criminal cases as well, especially if officers used a controversial police stop as a basis to arrest the defendant.

Marijuana and Hemp

Under state law, marijuana is illegal for most purposes. However, also under state law, hemp is legal for almost all purposes. In terms of their physical characteristics, these two substances are identical. They look alike, smell alike, and are otherwise exactly the same as each other.

The state has the burden of proof in criminal court. This burden applies to every element of every criminal defense, including whether the substance at issue was illegal (marijuana) or legal (hemp).

As mentioned, no one, not even a scientist, can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana based on physical appearance alone. An expensive THC content test is the only way to establish what’s what. Prosecutors often don’t order this test, especially if the other evidence of possession is weak.

In addition to the nature of the substance, prosecutors must prove the defendant knew about the substance and had control over it. These things are often difficult to prove, especially if officers found marijuana (or a substance which appeared to be marijuana) under the driver’s seat and the defendant was in the passenger-side rear seat.

Procedural issues could come up as well. Police cannot seize physical evidence unless they had a valid warrant or a narrow search warrant exception applied. If a Tampa criminal defense lawyer excludes the substance, the prosecution usually cannot go forward.

“I Smelled Marijuana”

For decades, officers have used this line to justify aggressive searches and other police tactics. Since the odor dissipates, there was basically no way to confirm or deny the officer’s statement. It was the officer’s word against the defendant’s word.

Now, hemp is legal and, as mentioned, when hemp burns, it smells exactly like marijuana. So, the signature odor isn’t evidence of criminal activity. The Supreme Court has yet to definitively rule if the “I smelled marijuana” excuse will hold up in court. But, it’s certain that this excuse is on very shaky legal ground.

That’s not only because of the changing nature of hemp/marijuana laws. It’s also because of the changing public attitude toward police officers. Back in the day, cops got free pancakes at Denny’s. Now, for the most part, they pay for their own pancakes at Denny’s. So, in court, many jurors no longer accept a police officer’s word for it.

Additionally, there may be some way to refute the “I smelled marijuana” story. If one officer smelled marijuana and another one didn’t, one of them is incorrect. Additionally, marijuana smoke clings to hair and clothes. If booking officers didn’t smell marijuana, there’s a lower likelihood that the arresting officer smelled marijuana.

 Reach Out to a Diligent Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Client Reviews

"I was in the unfortunate situation of having to hire a lawyer for my grandson and since I did not know of anyone that could refer me, I had to rely on my judgement of character and when I sat down in front of Omar, I knew that I had made the right decision. He is a very professional, well versed in the law, knowledgeable young man that takes the time to explain every aspect of your case to you. He returns calls promptly, knows your case inside out and is very punctual in meetings and court hearings. I could not have chosen a better, more qualified lawyer to represent my grandson. He comes highly recommended by me and you will not go wrong in obtaining his services."

- Gloria

"It is with pleasure that we wish to recommend Mr. Omar Abdelghany in his practice as a Criminal Defense Attorney. He was hired in the defense of our son. The defense included more than one offense, which required legal maneuvering to address the issues. Omar's skills came into play in positioning the case, which resulted in a good outcome given the facts at hand."

- Ted

"Lawyer Abdelghany, has been a tremendous blessing and stress reliever, not only to me but also to my family members in need of professional help. He was understanding of my situation and worked with me financially. I am overall grateful for him and would refer all my family and friends to hire him."

- Khalil G.
View More