It’s not every day that you see a criminal defense lawyer advocating for the legalization of a drug, yet, in Florida, one attorney is doing just that.
Michael Minardi is a man on a mission – a mission to legalize Marijuana in Florida. But he’s not just trying to lift the ban on cannabis for medical purposes; Minardi is going all the way with his campaign and wants pot to be legalized for recreational use.
However, Minardi definitely has his work cut out for him, especially considering the fact that a measure that sought to legalize medical marijuana in “The Sunshine State” didn’t pass in 2014. Many are wondering how the West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney plans to succeed at his endeavors. The answer? Strength in numbers.
Minardi has teamed up with fellow criminal attorney Bill Wohlsifer and marijuana activist Karen Goldstein to form the corporation Sensible Florida, as well as an associated group, Regulate Florida. The group has proposed “Florida Cannabis Act,” an amendment to the state constitution that would legalize and regulate the use of recreational cannabis for adults.
The Act seeks to legalize marijuana and to regulate it, similar to the way alcohol is regulated. Basically, anyone who is 21 years of age and older would be able to purchase and possess up to an ounce of pot. In addition, those who meet the age criteria would also be able to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.
Given Florida’s track record when it comes to legalizing week, to say that the group is ambitious in their plight is an understatement.
Yet, Minardi isn’t one to back down. In a recent interview with the New Times, Minardi argued that while the Act would lift the ban on recreational marijuana, those of age would still not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of the substance. He also explained that legalizing cannabis would make smoking safer in general.
“[The Act] creates a licenses-regulated system of distribution to make sure we have the safety of the products and safety for consumers as a priority, much like they do in Colorado,” argued Minardi. “Whenever any kind of product is regulated, it makes sure people are getting a safe product.”
The Florida Division of Elections has already given Minardi’s team the ok to begin collecting voter signatures for the Act. However, in order for the proposed amendment to be placed on the November 2016 ballot, the team will have to obtain 683,149 signatures – certainly no small feat.
Minardi’s team faces numerous obstacles, especially considering the fact that a similar bill, introduced by Sen. Dwight Bullard (Miami) in 2014, was killed before it even came close to being brought before the State Legislature.
Minardi explained he is aware of the previous failed attempts at legalizing weed, but as a criminal defense attorney, he plans to use statistics in his argument that show how crime rates and cannabis usage among teenagers in Colorado have decreased since pot smoking for recreational purposes was made legal in the state.
He also argues that criminalizing marijuana hasn’t done anything to lower the crime rate and has only served to distract law officials from more pressing issues.
There’s also one other factor that may serve to favor Minardi’s argument. Several South Florida cities, including Hallandale Beach, Miami Beach, and Key West have announced that they will be decriminalizing the possession of “small amounts” of marijuana.
Still, it’s not going to be easy. Minardi’s team will have to raise a substantial amount of money to fund their campaign. We’re talking millions here. The team doesn’t have any major sponsors to assist in the financial department and are resorting to their own devices for fundraising, such as selling shirts.
“We’ve got a lot of things in the works to get this thing done,” adds Minardi.
Only time will tell how far the Florida Cannabis Act will make it up the legislative totem pole. Until then, it’s important for anyone in Florida to understand that possession of marijuana is still considered an offense and if caught with the drug, can face fines and possible incarceration. Anyone arrested for cannabis possession should consult with a Florida criminal defense lawyer for assistance in contesting their charges.