Miami Drug Trafficking-Prison For Too Much Weed?

This is an actual criminal case. The only thing I did was change the defendants’ names. Marley and Snoop (we’ll call them) were charged with trafficking in cannabis, pursuant to Florida Criminal Statute 893.135(1)(a). Both ganja loving defendants were facing a potential three year minimum mandatory prison sentence if the total weight of the pot seized was over twenty-five pounds. Unfortunately for them, when cops weighed the “Devil’s Grass,” (I’ve got many names for pot) it totaled twenty-six pounds.

Their attorneys did exactly what I’ve done on many similar cases that I’ve defended here in Florida. They called Dr. Terry Hall. I’ve used this expert in a number of cases. Marley and Snoop had him re-weigh the cannabis, hoping that maybe the cops’ doughnuts and/or handguns were left on the scale when the pot was originally weighed, causing a pound or two increase. (note: Not all cops eat doughnuts. That was a stereotype used to obtain a cheap chuckle)

What Dr. Hall did discover was that a pool of liquid formed at the bottom of the container holding the marijuana and packaging. This was the potential break the defendants were looking for. After Dr. Hall re-weighed the cannabis without the liquid and the packaging, it weighed only twenty-four pounds. Yay!!!! There goes the three year minimum mandatory stint in the pokey, right? Not so fast.

First, the defendants’ attorneys filed motions to dismiss the trafficking charge, claiming that the cannabis didn’t meet the twenty-five pound requirement. Unfortunately, the prosecutors didn’t agree with the defenses’ position. They fought back.

While the prosecutors conceded that the cannabis weighed twenty-four pounds without the water and the packaging, they still felt they had a trafficking case. They argued that
the law allows their officers to weigh the marijuana plants including the water/liquid inside.

Great news for Marley and Snoop, the judge agreed with their attorneys. The judge concluded that the legal way to determine the weight of pot was to weigh it without the liquid/water. The judge even wrote in his order dismissing the trafficking charges that, “nobody buys wet weed.” The judge also wrote that wet cannabis cannot be smoked, and that cannabis cannot be used when it still has water content. (note: Not all judges have smoked weed)

So Marley and Snoop celebrated, probably by getting stoned. That buzz was short lived, however, when both learned that the State was appealing the judge’s decision. What did the appellate court decide?

Unfortunately for Marley and Snoop, the court of appeals didn’t agree with the judge’s reasoning in dismissing the trafficking charges. The higher court made clear in their ruling that the law permits cops to weigh cannabis plants with everything except, “wrapping materials, commingled soil, and excess water not inherent in the plant’s vegetable matter.” “Excess water” has been described as “water that has been added extrinsically to the marijuana or that the marijuana had accidentally acquired; water that one normally would not expect to find in the plant.” So, for example, if the pot plants were accidentally dropped by cops in a large puddle prior to being weighed, prosecutors couldn’t include that excess water weight in bringing charges. However, if the water in the plants were inherently present (meaning, on the inside of the plants), then they shall be included in the weighing.

Let me share some more of the higher court’s ruling: “It is undisputed that the live and freshly-cut cannabis plants were seized directly from the hydroponics lab and from defendant’s vehicle as he drove from the lab. As such, the cannabis had not been transported by boat and had not fallen into a canal or other body of water, thereby providing the occasion for “excess water” to be added to the plants. Because the undisputed facts establish that the State could present a prima facie case of trafficking under section 893.135(1)(a), the trial court erred in dismissing the charges.”

“Bummer!” as Marley and Snoop probably exclaimed. Based upon the ruling, they had to face a three year minimum mandatory for their charges. Unfortunately, that’s the end. No more refer references. No more puns. The difference between potentially receiving probation and a three year prison term, hinged upon just one pound and also, that the appellate court believes marijuana plant water should count when the cannabis is weighed. Hopefully their attorneys still worked out a decent plea offer once the order of dismissal was reversed.