This past Tuesday, America went to the polls. In Pinellas County and throughout Florida, amendment two was on the ballot. This allowed for the legalization of medical marijuana. Supporters claimed it was compassionate and the right thing to do. Opponents said it was full of loopholes and was a backdoor to legalization. As it was a constitutional amendment it needed 60% support to pass. It fell short at just over 57%.
While the TampaBay Times did not support this amendment, it did a series of articles showing both positive and negative aspects of marijuana legalization. While we wait for 2016 and perhaps another try, individual human stories often don’t get told.
For Pasco jail inmate Amanda Gould, it was another day, another violation of probation. She had already spent 60 days in jail for her VOP. She felt confident that the judge would release her.
Two months prior, Ms. Gould had violated her DUI probation for failing a drug screen by smoking marijuana.
On her court date, the probation officer recommended she continue on probation. The judge examined her medical records and disagreed. He saw her extensive drug history (both prescription and non-prescription) and thought her staying on probation was a waste of time and taxpayer money.
Her criminal defense lawyer disagreed. He claimed that she was chronically ill and all her drug use was related to her sickness. The lawyer even argued that her marijuana use was part of her self medication. Her attorney further argued that she would be a prime candidate for medical marijuana.
The judge disagreed and was looking at sending her to prison (confinement for over a year).
Doctors have diagnosed 36-year-old Ms.Gould with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, Sjogren’s syndrome and two dozen more illnesses. She has been prescribed oxycodone and other addictive drugs. These prescriptions caused her to throw up and changed her personality. When she found marijuana, she noticed no side effects.
She was doing fine until she picked up a driving under the influence charge six years ago. She was pulled over, found to be drinking and had a zanax pill in her pocket. She was charged with DUI, possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance and introduction of contraband into a detention facility (a third-degree felony).
Due in part to her medications and her illnesses, she was not found competent to stand trial until 2013. She accepted a plea bargain of two year’s probation, and 50 community service hours for the DUI and marijuana possession.
Her health continued to deteriorate. She was now on more medications and often confined to a wheelchair. Due to her drug screens, she was no longer allowed to smoke marijuana.
One night, she felt extra sick and smoked a joint. Her drug tests came up positive and her probation was violated. For most probation violations in Pinellas, your bond is revoked and you sit in jail until your court date.
Ms. Gould was not an exception, sitting in jail all this time. She tried to stay positive and was happy that jail made her kick her prescription drug addiction. She also started thinking of moving to Colorado, where marijuana is legal.
A few days after this article was first published, the court heard her case and decided to keep her on probation. The judge gave her one year of drug offender probation with the condition of NO prescription drugs or marijuana.
While everything appeared to have worked out for Ms. Gould in this particular case, she was very fortunate. There is no marijuana legalization coming until at least 2016.
Possession of marijuana, found under Florida statute 893.13, is a first-degree misdemeanor. This means that she can be sent to jail or put on probation for up to 12 months.
Prescription pill offenses, found under the same Florida statute number, are considered third-degree felonies. Those pills, if no prescription, are considered the same as cocaine or heroin under Florida law.
A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years prison or probation in Florida.