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

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

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Naked Woman Is Stuck In Storm Drain For Weeks But How She Got There Is Even More Strange

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Naked Woman Is Stuck In Storm Drain For Weeks But How She Got There Is Even More Strange

Rescuers are still scratching their heads after helping a woman out of a storm drain, where she had allegedly been trapped for weeks. Although her family is glad that the woman has been rescued, they have more questions than answers about the woman’s past few weeks.

Woman is rescued from storm drain after being missing for three weeks.

A 43-year-old woman who had been missing for three weeks was rescued Tuesday after she was found trapped inside a storm drain just a few feet away from a busy street in the Florida city of Delray Beach. She was naked and unable to stand on her own.

The bizarre rescue began when a good Samaritan heard yelling coming from a drain and called 911, according to Delray Beach Fire Rescue. How she ended up in the drain is even more unusual:

The woman told officers she went for a swim in a canal near her boyfriend’s home in West Delray Beach on March 3, according to Delray Beach police.

“While she was swimming, she came across a doorway near a shallow part of the canal. She stated she entered the doorway and noticed a tunnel,” reads the March 23 incident report. According to the report, she became curious and began walking down the tunnel, which led to another tunnel and so on until she became lost.

Thanks to the good Samaritan, the woman is now recovering.

Credit: DELRAY BEACH FIRE RESCUE / FACEBOOK

If it weren’t for the compassion of one bystander, the woman could still be trapped. “There’s a lady stuck in a sewer, yes ma’am, she cannot get out. She’s screaming for help … she don’t have no clothes,” a woman told the 911 operator, according to a recording of the call the Miami Herald obtained through a public record request. The woman told the operator she was in her car, with her windows down, when she heard the screams.

The woman will now undergo a mental assessment. Her mother told police she has a history of mental illness and is known for “doing odd things and making bad decisions when she is high on drugs,” according to the report. Police said she is a Methadone patient and that her last dose was the day prior to her disappearance.

Her boyfriend had reported her missing three weeks before her rescue.

The woman had been reported missing by her boyfriend on March 3, after 9 p.m., when he spoke to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Police say they don’t know how long the woman was in the tunnels. The woman claims she was walking in the tunnels, lost, for about three weeks until she “saw some light” and decided to sit there because she saw people walking by, according to the report. It’s unclear how long it took for someone to notice her.

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Florida Moves To Ban Iguanas (Among Other Animals) As They Start Showing Up In People’s Toilets

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Florida Moves To Ban Iguanas (Among Other Animals) As They Start Showing Up In People’s Toilets

There’s never a dull moment in Florida. The state is well known for its fondness for all things exotic and/or strange, it has a long history of accommodating religious cults and now the ex-President Trump calls the state home. But now the state is trying to clamp down on another unwanted resident – invasive reptiles that are overrunning the state and literally showing up in people’s toilets.

Florida moves to ban iguanas as they become an invasive species in the state.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has ruled that within the next few weeks the breeding and dealing of 16 of the most ecologically-damaging non-native species must be brought to a halt. The ban will apply to several types of python that have proliferated to crisis point in the Everglades, as well as all types of tegu lizards, anacondas, Nile monitor lizards and green iguanas.

Green iguanas have multiplied in Florida to such a degree since they were first spotted there in 1960 that they are regarded as an environmental hazard. They puncture seawalls, tear up sidewalks and carry salmonella.

An animal once prized as an exotic curiosity is now widely decried as a pest. The iguanas hang out on roofs, dig under houses and to the horror of home owners can crawl into sewers only to emerge, thrashing around, in the toilet bowl.

The state conservation commission now encourages Floridians to humanely kill the lizards, which can grow up to 5ft and 17lbs, on their own property. No hunting licenses are required.

Iguanas are just one of many exotic animals that have become a problem for the state.

In an effort to protect local ecology, economy, and human health, the state is making it illegal for Floridians to breed or sell such animals as Burmese and scrub pythons, Green anacondas, Nile monitors, green iguanas, and tegus, among several other invasive species. Finalized on February 25, the new rules are meant to improve the regulations on the ownership of invasive reptiles in Florida, and they’re expected to go into effect later this summer. 

“Stringent biosecurity measures are required for those entities in possession of Prohibited species to limit escapes,” declares the Florida wildlife commission in its guidelines. 

These reptiles are becoming a major menace in the state, ravaging sensitive ecosystems and wreaking havoc in urban environments. The Burmese python, for example, is now endemic in the Everglades, where it consumes a wide variety of prey. 

But not everyone is onboard with the idea of banning the sale of these animals.

When the commission debated the rules last month it was inundated with comments, many from exotic pet owners and breeders pleading for the ban not to go ahead. As the Washington Post reported, one woman burst into tears over the idea of losing her pet iguanas and pythons.

“If you take them away, I would be really messed up,” she wailed.

But the spread of invasive species through sensitive ecosystems such as the Everglades is happening at such speed that the state felt duty bound to act. The reptiles are also causing havoc in urban areas.

To soften the blow to pet owners, a concession has been tucked into the new regulations. Anyone who cannot contemplate the thought of being parted from their iguana or tegu can apply for a free permit. But the reprieve will last only for the life of the animal. Once the critter is gone, it cannot be replaced by a new pet from the list of banned species.

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