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Synthetic Cannabinoids (fake marijuana): What are they, are they illegal to possess in Florida, what can I do if I am charged with possession?

***Be aware that this area of law is rapidly changing. Do not rely on this post or anything on the internet without discussing your case or situation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Please contact our law firm at (941) 444-5128 if you would like a free consultation.***

Synthetic Cannabinoids are a relatively new class of designer drugs. There are hundreds of known chemical synthetic cannabinoids. The chemicals are often sprayed on to plant material resembling marijuana, packaged in colorful foil packets, and sold in gas stations and "head shops" throughout the state of Florida as "herbal incense," K2, spice, or "fake weed." The "fake weed" is often smoked in the same fashion as traditional marijuana (even though the packaging usually indicates: "not for human consumption.")

Reports of the chemicals causing psychosis and death have led to nationwide panic and various state legislatures scrambling to ban the synthetic cannabinoid chemicals. After a particular chemical is banned, the manufacturers often switch to a supposedly "unbanned" chemical in an attempt to evade state law.

At least 41 states have banned synthetic cannabinoids. (Click here to view the various chemicals that are banned and the states they are banned in. DO NOT rely on this information to determine if a particular substance is illegal or not, please call us with any questions.) What is particularly worrying from a legal perspective is that the vast majority of the manufacturers of "fake weed" do not label the chemical ingredients in the product so it is often not possible for the consumer to determine if the product is banned or not.

Law enforcement in Sarasota County sometimes arrests people and charges them with possession of a synthetic cannabinoid without actually knowing whether the substance is in fact banned or not. Ultimately, the state has the burden to prove that the substance they are claiming is illegal is, in fact, illegal.

This will usually involve the substance being tested in a state sanctioned laboratory to determine if the substance is a synthetic cannabinoid, and if so, if it is a banned synthetic cannabinoid. It would also need to be determined if the specific cannabinoid was banned at the time of the arrest (or the time that the substance was allegedly possessed).

If one is charged with possession of a synthetic cannabinoid there may be some pressure put on the defendant to plea early on to the charge or accept some form of diversionary program like pre-trial intervention (PTI) when the state may have no idea if an actual crime has been committed.

If you have been charged with possession of a synthetic cannabinoid, and would like to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, call Soler and Slack, P.A. at (941) 444-5128 for a free consultation.

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