Things That Matter

A New Florida Law And Lack Of Testing Facilities In The State Means Miami-Dade County Won’t Be Prosecuting Misdemeanor Pot Cases

Marc Fuyà / Flickr

There is good news out there for marijuana users in Florida as prosecutors in Miami-Dade county announced they will no longer prosecute minor marijuana cases. The news comes as a result of new state law, the so-called “hemp bill,” which went into effect July 1, that has legalized hemp but has also caused much more costly problems. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office released a memo last week saying there is no police crime lab in South Florida that currently tests for a cannabis chemical that gets users high. This has now created a new challenge for law enforcement in trying to tell the difference between hemp and cannabis.

“Barring exceptional circumstances,” Miami prosecutors will no longer be prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases. When it comes to large amounts, enough for felony charges, police will now have to get lab tests to verify if it is real marijuana, not hemp. 

Credit: @fguzmanon7 / Twitter

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a memo that authorities can’t “visually or microscopically” tell the difference between marijuana from hemp, which only has very small amounts of THC chemicals that it’s counterpart does. Now, due to the new law in effect, laboratory testing must be done. 

“Because hemp and cannabis both come from the same plant, they look, smell, and feel the same. There is no way to visually or microscopically distinguish one from the other,” the memo states. “Similarly, since hemp can be – and is – also smoked, there is no olfactory way to distinguish hemp from marijuana.”

Rundle says due to the “Hemp Bill,” state prosecutors now need an expert on hand to testify that a substance is marijuana to prove their cases in court. This also means lab tests will have to be conducted by authorities to verify a substance. However, those lab tests come at quite the price according to Rundle. 

“Up until now, there was no laboratory expense involved in marijuana prosecution cases, as any necessary testimony was from the Miami-Dade Police Department Forensic Services Bureau Crime Laboratory personnel,” the memo reads. “Since every marijuana case will now require an expert, and necessitate a significant expenditure by the State of Florida, barring exceptional circumstances on a particular case, we will not be prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.”

The Miami-Dade Police Crime Lab currently doesn’t have the practice to perform a marijuana analysis. But according to Rundle, the department is in the process of developing the methodology to do so.

Credit: @repwilson / Twitter

While the Miami-Dade crime lab currently does not have the capability to test for THC, this is all set to change in the next three to six months. According to Rundle, the eased enforcement of marijuana is a temporary thing until the county lab can perform such tests on their own.

“In the meantime, if there are any DEA certified private labs that can perform such testing in significant cases, and the police departments are willing to pay for such testing, then the prosecution of these cases could move forward,” Rundle said in the memo. “Once the MDPD lab can again conduct such testing themselves, then this all becomes moot. This is just a stumbling block and not a death knell to the prosecution of marijuana cases.”

The decision for the state to stop prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases highlights the growing obstacles for law enforcement in Florida and across the country in states where recreational marijuana is still considered illegal, but hemp is now allowed.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, prosecutors have been coming across this problem since the bill went into effect in July. They say the added expense of sending marijuana to labs outside of the state and getting expert witnesses to testify in court makes those options “prohibitive in all except the most serious of cases.”

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder says the state’s new regulations could be a dangerous move when it comes to enforcing marijuana laws as a whole. “This agency and most agencies around Florida will not be making marijuana arrests,” Snyder told West Palm Beach TV station WPTV. “Until we have a lab that can test, law enforcement efforts around marijuana are dead in the water.”

Nonetheless, as the attitude of marijuana as a whole has loosened in recent years, the enforcement of misdemeanor marijuana cases in Miami were not being prosecuted as aggressively as in the past. This might be a continuing trend in counties an states where hemp is legal but marijuana is not. 

READ: A Married Florida Cop Is Suing A Dating Website For Allegedly Using His Picture In Advertisements Without His Permission

Bricks Of Cocaine Have Been Washing Up On Florida Beaches And Some Are Valued At More Than $25,000

Things That Matter

Bricks Of Cocaine Have Been Washing Up On Florida Beaches And Some Are Valued At More Than $25,000

Melbourne Police Department / Facebook

Florida is gonna Florida. Florida, as usual, is doing the most. Hurricane Dorian has unearthed more than a dozen bricks of cocaine by causing them to wash up on beaches. Hurricane Dorian isn’t a joke nor should it be trivialized. It’s the cause of damage and displacement for thousands of people. 

Beginning as a Category 5 hurricane and eventually downgrading to a Category 2, Dorian has wreaked havoc in the Bahamas, Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida as it continues its move northeast. At least 20 have been killed in the Bahamas, which has been hit particularly hard. The prime minister, Hubert Minnis said Dorian “has left generational devastation across Abaco and Grand Bahama” after it destroyed harbors, shops, offices, hospitals, and airport landing strips. 

So let’s be clear, we’re not undermining the very real disaster whose devastation won’t even be quantifiable for years to come — we’re making fun of Florida. Florida, a state whose crimes are so bizarre and confusing it has a dedicated Twitter account. A state whose men are so bizarre and confusing there is a dedicated “Florida Man” meme. There is a Bored Panda listicle entitled “60 Times Florida Man Did Something So Crazy We Had To Read The Headings Twice.” 

Florida isn’t a regular place, you see, it is a place where the oceans are filled with cocaine. 

15 bricks of cocaine washed ashore. 

A duffel bag containing 15 bricks of cocaine weighing a kilo each turned up on the shore of Cocoa Beach in Florida.

Just 20 miles south, another brick of cocaine was discovered at Paradise Beach and Park in Melbourne, Florida. 

“It happened before the storm, it was on Friday, Aug. 30, it was just a beachgoer that saw a red travel duffel bag that looked suspicious,” Sergeant Manny Hernandez of Cocoa Beach Police Department told Fox Business. 

“So they contacted the Cocoa Beach Police Department and when officers responded, they took the bag and brought it back to station. We then contacted the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).”

This particular brick also weighed a kilo and had the letters “D-I-A-M-A-N-T” written on the package. The NY Post estimatesthe 15 bricks to be worth at least $300,000. However Fox Business reports that the two seizures may total around $810,000 and estimate that each brick is between $20,000 and $30,000.

This happens in Florida all the time, of course.

Bricks of cocaine and marijuana, known as square groupers, have been known to surface in Florida waters. Brevard’s coast has had unintended spills from cargo ships and vessels where coffee cans and other items have been dumped into the ocean. According to Florida Today, it is the rough surf and proximity of the Gulf Stream that causes either “trash or treasure” to wash up frequently. 

“There is a possibility that more will come onshore,” Hernandez said. “Especially now with these conditions. It could be coming from anywhere. We’re telling people to be cautious and not to grab or handle it because if there is an opening, it can go into your pores and you can overdose.”

Why is there so much cocaine in Florida, though?

In 2017,the Sun-Sentinel reported cocaine is making a “roaring” comeback in Florida.  Reportedly, Colombian cocaine production hit a record high with traffickers proliferating the drug in South Florida. Around 90% of the cocaine in the United States can be traced back to Colombia, which has tripled its production in recent years. 

Florida’s Customs and Borders confiscated 4,200 pounds of cocaine in 2016, compared to 1,730 pounds in 2015. Because there is a lag between drug production and distribuion it can take years to see the effects. Flash forward to 2019 where bricks of cocaine are free-flowing on the shores of Cocoa Beach. 

“We’ve never seen cocaine production at these numbers, which tells you there is more cocaine being produced now than at the height of the Medellin and Cali cartels,” Justin Miller, intelligence chief for the DEA’s Miami field division, told the Sun-Sentinel. “That’s significant.”

The increase in production is largely due to the Colombian government ceasing to aerial spray herbicides over coca fields used to make cocaine. The previous method was effective in thwarting cocaine production, but it harmed legitimate crops. Thus, the program ended. 

Don’t do cocaine, kids.

Don’t do cocaine, kids. That’s fairly good advice, I think! It’s nice to know that in the most trying times, Florida will always be Florida. Much like the spinning top was Leonardo Dicaprio’s constant in Inception. Florida is mine because I know it will never change. 

The Missing Toddler Who Was Allegedly Sold For $10K By An Uber Driver Has Been Found Dead

Things That Matter

The Missing Toddler Who Was Allegedly Sold For $10K By An Uber Driver Has Been Found Dead

Many say that the worst thing that can happen to a parent is to lose their child. Well, that worst happened on Saturday evening to Paul Johnson after a rideshare driver abducted his daughter, according to police documents. Now, a woman is in custody but the toddler is still missing. 

The child reportedly was sold for $10,000 according to police reports. 

According to the father, as reported by ABC 15 Arizona, he was riding in a car with Lyft and Uber stickers with his daughter and a friend. 

When he got out of the car to get his daughter out of the car seat, the driver drove away with the toddler, according to a criminal complaint that was filed by the Allegheny County police in Pennsylvania. While the complaint didn’t identify the child, the police news release said she is named Nalani. 

According to police reports, the father, Paul Johnson, told detectives he tried calling the driver’s cellphone numerous times but she never answered. After trying to call the driver, he called 911 at 5 p.m. eastern time. A couple of hours after, police arrest the woman, named Sharena Nancy, 25, in the vehicle during a traffic stop around 7:30 p.m. eastern time. However, they did not find the child inside, the police complaint said. 

The driver allegedly told detectives that the father of the toddler “sold the child to an individual for $10,000 and asked her to complete the dropoff.”

According to CNN, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said during a press conference on Tuesday that Nancy, the driver of the car, was a woman “with whom Johnson was in the beginning of an ‘intermittent romantic relationship.'”

McDonough said the couple became close over social media in the past few months and all had previously spent time together with Johnson’s daughter. According to police reports, Nancy and Johnson had allegedly gotten into an argument on Saturday but they didn’t elaborate on the details of the argument. But once Johnson and his daughter exited the car, that’s when the driver drove away with the toddler. 

Now, authorities and the toddler’s family members are asking the public to help them locate the child and to contact them with any tips. 

“We miss Nalani. We want her home. If anyone has any info — it doesn’t matter how big or small — please call into the tip line,” Nalani’s grandmother, Taji Walsh, said during the Tuesday press conference, according to CNN.

Further, the driver told authorities that Johnson showed her a “photo of a black woman she was supposed to meet and asked her to drive the toddler ’20 minutes’ from a gas station in Monroeville along US Route 22 to meet the woman.” She said the woman in question would “flag” her down and Nancy would then be advised to turn over the toddler.

Nancy also told detectives involved with the case that everything had gone according to the alleged plan and she passed the toddler along with the car seat over to a woman and then she drove off. She said she also noticed a second woman inside the SUV that drove off with the toddler. But Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said during the press conference on Tuesday that they have no evidence to corroborate Nancy’s version of the events. 

Nalani’s grandmother also told CNN affiliate KDKA, that the driver’s account of the events is completely false.

“If the police felt that PJ was in any way involved, he wouldn’t be walking free, he’d be locked somewhere up like she is,” Nalani’s grandmother said to CNN. 

The driver is currently being held in jail without bail at the Allegheny County Jail. According to ABC 15 Arizona, she was arraigned on Monday and charged with kidnapping of a minor.

So far, she has also been charged with interference with custody of children and concealment of whereabouts of a child. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 16. 

Media outlets were unable to identify or reach out to an attorney for Nancy. Representatives of Uber also did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Dana Davis, a communications manager for Lyft, told CNN that while the incident did not happen on the Lyft platform, they have still banned Nancy from driving with the rideshare company, and they also said that the allegations made against her were “deeply disturbing.”

Nalani, the kidnapped toddler, is about 23 months old, with her second birthday on September 15. According to CNN, she’s about 3 feet tall and weighs about 30 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

The body of the 23-month-old toddler was found Tuesday at a park in Indiana County. As of this report, authorities have not released any information on whether or not Nancy is now a suspect in the child’s death.