Trafficking in Cannabis

Law enforcement officers throughout the State of Florida, including Hillsborough Couny and the entire Tampa Bay area have formed special units to look for marijuana grow houses and trafficking operations.

If you have been arrested or are under investigation for trafficking in cannabis or marijuana, contact an experienced attorney for these types of cases. We represent clients in Hillsborough County, FL, and the surrounding areas of Polk, Pasco, Pinellas, and Hernando County.

Attorneys Fighting Marijuana Trafficking Cases in Florida

Hiring an attorney early in the investigation often leads to the best result because at the beginning of the investigation all avenues of attacking the criminal case are still available to the defense.

One of the most important things to remember if you are questioned about any marijuana or cannabis criminal offense under Florida law is to assert your right to remain silent. The most powerful evidence in any trafficking in marijuana or cannabis cases is usually the statements made by the person arrested.

We focus on marijuana offenses and innovative strategies to defend our clients. We are experienced in asserting the medical necessity defense when appropriate. We take a scholarly approach to litigatings motions to dismiss and motions to suppress. An aggressive defense is often the best defense in these types of cases.

Call (813) 250-0500 to schedule a phone or office consultation today. Our attorneys aggressively pursue all avenues of attack in fighting these serious cases.

Law Enforcement Sting Operations in Marijuana Trafficking Cases

In order to find marijuana grow houses and cannabis trafficking operations in Florida, law enforcement officers are using more creative investigation techniques. Many of these marijuana sting operations in Florida are elaborate.

After law enforcement officers in Florida develop “leads” on individuals suspected of operating a grow house or trafficking in marijuana, the police begin surveillance until they can gather enough evidence for a search warrant or an arrest warrant.

One of the most common sting operations being used now by law enforcement involves using undercover officers and confidential informants to infiltrate marijuana hydroponic stores or pose as online hydroponic merchants. The officers then follow the customers home.

In many of the cases, law enforcement officers in Florida attempt a “knock and talk” without a warrant by swarming a suspect’s house for the purpose of gaining “voluntary consent” to search the home.

Whatever techniques are used in your case, contact a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa to discuss defenses that can be used to fight your trafficking in cannabis case, including motions to dismiss, or motions to suppress.

At Sammis Law Firm, in Tampa, FL, we defend individuals charged with possession, cultivation, and trafficking marijuana cases.

Jury Instruction 25.9 for Trafficking in Marijuana

The standard jury instructions 25.9 for trafficking in marijuana or cannabis reads as follows:

Certain drugs and chemical substances are by law known as “controlled substances. Cannabis is a controlled substance. To prove the crime of Trafficking in Cannabis, the State must prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The person arrested for Trafficking in Marijuana knowingly possessed, sold, manufactured, delivered, purchased, or brought into the State of Florida a certain substance;
  2. The substance is marijuana or cannabis;
  3. The quantity of the marijuana or cannabis involved was either in excess of 25 pounds or involved at least 300 cannabis or marijuana plants.
  4. The person arrested for Trafficking in Cannabis knew that the substance was marijuana or cannabis.

Definition of Legal Terms in a Marijuana Case

  • The term “cannabis” under Florida Statute Section § 893.02(3) means all parts of any plant of the “Genus Cannabis” whether growing or not.
  • To “sell” marijuana under Florida law means to deliver or transfer cannabis to another person in exchange for something of value or money or a promise of something of value or money.
  • To “manufacture” cannabis under Florida Statute Section § 893.02(13)(a) means the cultivation, cultivating, growing, preparation, packaging, production, labeling or relabeling, propagation, compounding, conversion or processing of marijuana or cannabis, either directly or indirectly. Manufacturing cannabis or marijuana under Florida law can be by extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis. It can also be by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis.
  • To “deliver” or “delivery of” marijuana under Florida Statute Section § 893.02(5) means the actual, constructive, or attempted transfer from one person to another of marijuana or cannabis, whether or not there is an agency relationship.
  • To “possess” or “having possession” of marijuana or cannabis under Florida law means to exercise the right of control, management, or ownership or to have personal charge over the marijuana or cannabis. Possession of cannabis may be actual or constructive.

Actual or Constructive Possession of Marijuana under Florida Law

  1. The cannabis is in the hand of or on the person, or
  2. The cannabis is in a container in the hand of or on the person, or
  3. The cannabis is so close as to be within ready reach and is under the control of the person.

In order to establish constructive possession of a controlled substance if the controlled substance is in a place over which the (defendant) does not have control, the State must the following:

  1. The defendant had control over the marijuana;
  2. The defendant had knowledge that the marijuana was in the defendant’s presence.

Constructive possession under Florida law means the cannabis is in a place over which the defendant has control, or in which the defendant has concealed it. Mere proximity is not sufficient to establish control over that controlled substance when it is not in a place over which the person has control.

Possession of marijuana under Florida law may be joint, that is, two or more persons may jointly possess the marijuana, exercising control over it. In that case, each of those persons is considered to be in possession. If a person has exclusive possession of cannabis, knowledge of its presence may be inferred or assumed. If a person does not have exclusive possession, then knowledge of its presence may not be inferred or assumed.

Knowledge of the Illicit Nature of the Substance

Under Florida law “knowledge of the illicit nature” of marijuana is not an element of the criminal offense. Instead, the lack of knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance possessed is an affirmative defense.

If the defendant in a trafficking case raises this affirmative defense, then the jury is permitted to presume that defendant was aware of the illicit nature of the cannabis if the jury finds that the defendant was in actual or constructive possession of the substance.

If, from the evidence, the jury is convinced that the defendant knew of the illicit nature of the substance, and all of the elements of the charge have been proved, then the jury is instructed that it should find the defendant guilty.

On the other hand, if the jury has a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant knew of the illicit nature of the controlled substance, then the jury is instructed that it should find the defendant not guilty.

Enhancement in Punishment Depending on Quantity

If the jury finds the defendant guilty of Trafficking in Marijuana, the jury will also be asked to determine in the verdict whether the State of Florida has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The quantity was 25 – 2,000 pounds or involved 300 – 2,000 plants.
  2. The quantity was 2,000 – 10,000 pounds or 2,000 – 10,000 plants.
  3. The quantity was 10,000 pounds or more or 10,000 or more plants.

Quantity Can Be Determined By Either the Weight or Number of Plants

In State v. Castro, 840 So.2d 1121 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003), the Court held that the weight of processed cannabis could be combined with the weight of growing plants in order to reach the amount necessary to qualify for a trafficking offense.

Therefore, under Florida law, for the charge of trafficking could be justified by the combined weight of both processed and unprocessed cannabis, even if the number of plants only were not sufficient for trafficking in cannabis.

In many of these cases, the defense will argue at trial that there is insufficient evidence of trafficking in marijuana because only some of the plants seized from the hydroponic “grow house” were actually tested at the local crime lab. When only a small sample of seized marijuana plants was scientifically tested, the evidence might not be sufficient.

The courts in Florida have used a six-part test set forth in United States v. Scalia, 993 F.2d 984 (1st Cir. 1993) and United States v. McCutchen, 992 F.2d 22, 23-24 (3dCir. 1993) which provides:

  1. whether a proper random selection procedure was employed;
  2. whether the tested and untested substances were seized contemporaneously at the search scene;
  3. whether the tested and untested substances were sufficiently similar in physical appearance;
  4. whether the method of scientific testing was an accepted one;
  5. whether all of the tested samples tested positive for the same substance; and
  6. whether any evidence existed suggesting that the untested substance differed from the tested substance.

Marijuana Trafficking and Lesser Included Offenses

Under Florida law, lesser included offenses of marijuana trafficking include the following:

  • Attempt (but not conspiracy), except when delivery of marijuana is charged under Florida Statute Section 777.04(1);
  • Sale, manufacture, or delivery of cannabis under Florida Statute Section 893.13(1)(a);
  • Purchase of marijuana under Florida Statute 893.13(2)(a);
  • Bringing cannabis into the State of Florida under Florida Statute Section 893.13(5);
  • Possession of cannabis — if less than 20 grams under Florida Statute Section 893.13(6)(a); or
  • Delivery of less than 20 grams of cannabis under Florida Statute Section 893.13(3).

If you have been arrested or charged with Trafficking in Cannabis in the State of Florida, then contact an experienced lawyer to discuss the particular facts of your case and defenses that may apply. Call (813) 250-0500 today.

This article was last updated on Friday, October 7, 2022.