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Setting The Florida Stage for Legal Recreational Marijuana

“Immaculate Conception” How does your Marijuana Grow?

Even though a state legalizes the plant, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, which means it is illegal to get cannabis of any kind, including seeds and clones, outside of that state’s border. So on day one of legalization, where do all the plants come from that will produce the weed you buy in the store? Out of thin air? Well, sort of.

Behold: immaculate conception.
To allow cannabis producers to bring genetics—seeds and clones—into a newly created market, a state will basically look the other way for a period of time and not bust growers for bringing seeds into the state illegally. It’s as if your genetics came from thin air, hence the term “immaculate conception.”
So growers starting a new business can buy seeds from all over the country and world, bringing a diverse pool of cannabis genetics into a state. Want some White Widow straight from The Netherlands? How about some Granddaddy Purple from Northern California?
As long as you can get it and tag it in your tracking system before the end of the immaculate conception period—usually 90 days after a producer gets a recreational license—your state will look the other way.
Cannabis Seeds 101: All You Need to Know and More
The loophole explained
So why do states do this? Basically, those plants have to come from somewhere.
“Any product obtained within a newly legal state couldn’t be obtained legally, because the only source of products in a state would have to come from the illicit market,” said Kris Krane, President of cannabis company 4Front Ventures. “Because of this, states have no choice but to look the other way as to where the companies obtain their first batch of seeds or cuttings, even though from that point forward everything is tracked from seed to sale.”
And without legal genetics already in your state, that means growers need to break the law to get that first batch of genetics into their state.
Another route: Some growers start off in the medical market and simply switch to producing for the recreational market when that opens up and they get a license for it. Growers can use the plants they grew for medical, but the funny thing is, even those genetics were originally obtained illegally.
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The gray area of cannabis legalization
So what do the feds think?
“To my knowledge, there is no communication between the states and the federal government about how they allow businesses to bring in initial seeds and cuttings. All of these businesses are illegal under federal law so states typically do not share any information about their programs in general with the federal government,” said Krane.
Immaculate conception is a perfect example of the dance states do to get around the feds and the gray area of the plant’s legality (banking is another example). Cannabis can be legal in multiple states, but crossing a state line with cannabis is still a federal offense. Taking that Oregon-grown weed into California can get you locked up even though it’s legal for anyone over 21 to buy cannabis in both Oregon and California.
Until federal legalization comes around, states and growers will have to create loopholes like immaculate conception. In the meantime, mum’s the word when it comes where your genetics came from.At present, it’s illegal to possess and use cannabis in Florida. If caught with 20 grams or under, the offender may be given a prison sentence of up to a year, and/or a $1,000 fine. If the amount of cannabis is over 20 grams, the offence becomes a felony, rather than a misdemeanour, and the prison sentence rises to as long as five years (with a possible fine of $5,000).
However, attempts are being made to make recreational cannabis use legal, as it is in some other US states. In 2019, state representatives Carlos Guillermo Smith and Michael Grieco filed a bill, seeking to legalise the drug. This wasn’t given a hearing or a vote. Their bill proposed to permit adults over the age of 21 to “use, possess, and transport” up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, and grow up to six plantOne significant obstacle stands in the way of recreational cannabis being legalised, and that’s the restriction of citizen drives. Pushed by Republican representatives, the bill limits the impact citizen petitions can have on constitutional amendments. Given that four of the amendments involve changing current cannabis law, this is likely to be a major issue in the future.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed this controversial bill in June 2019, and it came into immediate effect. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel referred to the move as an “arrogant abuse of political power.”
Can you sell cannabis in Florida?
Selling cannabis is also illegal in Florida. If the offender is caught trying to sell 20 grams or less, then the maximum prison sentence is one year, with a $1,000 fine. Selling 25 lb or less is a felony, and can result in up to five years in prison, plus a $5,000 fine. Anything over 25 lb but under 2,000 lb is punished with a three to 15-year prison sentence and a fine of $25,000.
If the laws change after the 2020 general election, then selling cannabis may become legal. Regulate Florida are petitioning to not only get recreational cannabis legalised, but also to create a regulated industry, enabling the plant to be sold to the general public.
Can you grow cannabis in Florida?
It’s illegal to grow cannabis in Florida. If caught cultivating less than 25 plants, the maximum prison sentence is five years (with a $5,000 fine). For 25 to 300 plants, the sentence is increased to a maximum of 15 years and a fine of $10,000; and if the amount of plants is between 300 and 2,000, this changes again, to three to 15 years in prison, plus a $25,000 fine.
If the offender is caught growing 2,000 to 10,000 plants, then the prison sentence is seven to 30 years, with a $50,000 fine. Any cultivation that takes place within 1,000 feet of an educational establishment, park or other specified area can result in a 15-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.
The law may change in the future, permitting people in Florida to grow a limited number of plants for personal use only, in their homes. However, at the time of writing, the situation hangs in the balance.
Is CBD legal in Florida?
Since Congress removed hemp from their list of illegal drugs, CBD has been technically legal to use, sell, and buy in Florida. It must come from a licenced grower, and it isn’t allowed to contain more than trace levels of THC (the substance responsible for providing a ‘high’).
In real terms, the law is far more complex. The Florida Department of Agriculture’s official stance is that it’s not legal to sell hemp or CBD, but Nikki Fried, the Agriculture Commissioner, is currently attempting to push through legislation to bring state law in line with federal law.
In the interim period while the situation is ambiguous, the authorities have been largely turning a blind eye to consumers purchasing and using CBD. The few crack-downs that have occurred have been involving CBD retailers, not buyers.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Florida?
Cannabis seeds are legal in Florida, and may be freely purchased and sold. When it comes to mailing them into the state from another state, the law is a little more ambiguous, and there have been some reports of seeds being withheld at customs.
Medicinal cannabis in Florida
Although medicinal cannabis is still illegal at federal level, it was legalised in Florida in 2016. It was originally approved by Florida’s Senate in 2014, with a 36 to three vote; and it was put in place to ensure that children with epilepsy had access to medicinal cannabis to treat their condition.
The Senate’s decision was based on the case of a young girl called Charlotte, who was using CBD oil to treat her epilepsy. The bill was nicknamed the ‘Charlotte’s Web bill’ in honour of this girl, and after the high CBD cannabis strain that was named after her too (‘Charlotte’s Web).
Obtaining medicinal cannabis in Florida
In order to have access to medicinal cannabis, patients must:
have a Medical Marijuana Use Registry ID card, which permits them to buy and possess medicinal cannabis.
have a qualifying condition.
be a permanent or seasonal resident of the state.
agree to keep the medicinal cannabis in Florida – it can’t legally be taken across the border.
agree to use it privately – public use is forbidden.
store it out of reach of children, ideally in a locked box.
How to qualify for an ID card
In order to qualify for medicinal cannabis, the patient must first be diagnosed by a qualified physician. If the patient is under 18, a second physician needs to agree with the original diagnosis.
Once approved, the patient is then entered into the Medical Marijuana Use Registry (and their caregiver, if applicable). They can then apply for an ID card, and obtain cannabis products at any approved Medical Marijuana Treatment Centre. Alternatively, they can have the products delivered to their home.
Qualifying conditions
The following health conditions have been approved for medicinal cannabis treatment in Florida:
Multiple Sclerosis
Crohn’s Disease
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Any conditions that are comparable to those listed above
Any terminal conditions
Chronic non-malignant pain
Industrial hemp in Florida,
Industrial hemp was legalised at federal level in 2018, under the Farm Bill. In 2019, Florida’s Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill, establishing a framework for the regulation of hemp cultivation in the state.
If approved, the bill directs Florida’s Department of Agriculture to start drafting the rules for the state’s hemp industry, with regards to safety standards, licencing, and quality control. An advisory council will also be created, providing education to local communities, and explaining how hemp differs from cannabis.

The January 15th, meeting of the Federal Marijuana Policy Board, held by Representative Anna Eshoo D-California (@RepAnnaEshoo) as Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee of Health Chair. reference:  HR 3884

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