He just wanted to spread some holiday cheer. Instead, he ended up in jail in St. Petersburg.
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Over the holidays, police arrested a Florida man as he stood on Second Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg, handing out marijuana to people as they walked by around 11:30 p.m. They had been pointed in his direction by other pedestrians on Second Avenue and nearby Central Avenue, the heart of the city’s entertainment district.
When he was arrested, the 67-year-old told police he was handing out the cannabis “because it was Christmas.”
This marijuana Santa wasn’t bothering to hide it, either. Police reported that he had marijuana leaves on his shirt sleeves, 45 grams of cannabis in a backpack and a black digital scale. The police report doesn’t say how many people accepted his gift, but it does note police charged him with possession with intent to sell/distribute — which is a felony in the state — as well as a misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia.
He has since been released on his own recognizance.
That Arrest Is The Latest Example Of Hodgepodge Marijuana Laws
While humorous, the arrest in St. Petersburg is another example of the wildly different cannabis laws in place around the country.
Having more than an ounce of marijuana — the marijuana Santa had about one and a half ounces — would likely have gotten him arrested or fined just about anywhere. California and Colorado, for example, limit the amount of marijuana a person can possess to just one ounce.
Certainly, handing out marijuana on the street could have led to arrest anywhere. However, in many places, he may have faced a misdemeanor charge and/or simply had his cannabis confiscated. In this case, he was charged with a felony.
Another Florida man got off a bit easier earlier this year. In Pasco County, north of the Tampa Bay area, a man kept calling police to report that his stash of adult-use marijuana had been stolen. Of course, with recreational marijuana not legal in Florida, reporting the theft was not the wisest move.
Police ended up not charging him, even though he was admitting he had possessed an illegal drug by Florida (and federal) law. They just asked him to stop calling about it.
It’s A Confusing World For Everyone When It Comes To Marijuana Laws
One can argue that both the marijuana Santa and 911 Florida Man weren’t confused about complex marijuana laws, but, perhaps, just confused in general. However, there’s no denying the patchwork nature of marijuana laws across the country has led to issues.
As 2020 starts, 11 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and 33 have legalized it for medical use. Yet, it still remains a Schedule I illegal drug at the federal level.
That’s led to confusion in many different areas. For example, the Insurance Information Institute issued a white paper for people in the insurance industry earlier this year called “Haze of Confusion.” It addressed, among other things, confusion about whether to compensate employees for medical marijuana costs.
In Florida and Texas, prosecutors are throwing out marijuana cases because cannabis is so similar to legal hemp that police officers can’t always tell the difference.
The bottom line remains: In some parts of the United States, you can bake cannabis cookies right in your kitchen and enjoy them on a Netflix and chill night, while, in others, doing the same could land you in jail — or at least saddle you with a hefty fine. Until that changes, expect the confusion to continue.