Yesterday in this space, we noted the contrast between marijuana enforcement across the country, where pot-related arrests take place every 45 seconds by one estimate, versus Colorado, a state that’s seen the rate of busts fall by more than 90 percent since the 2012 passage of Amendment 64, which legalized limited recreational marijuana sales.
Another example of the differences from state to state when it comes to cannabis: In recent days, Florida man Ricardo Varona was convicted in Miami for fifteen marijuana plants he said he was growing in order to provide medicine for his ailing wife.
Despite a defense bolstered by a medical marijuana patient and ganjapreneur with a Colorado background, Varona now faces at least three years in prison for trafficking.
The Miami Herald, which offered the best coverage of the Varona case that we’ve found, synopsizes the marijuana laws in the state like so: “In Florida, the Legislature this year authorized a low-grade strain of marijuana to treat a small number of ailments, including cancer. In October, the state will hash out which growers will be allowed to cultivate the plants; patients will likely be able to get access to marijuana sometime early next year.”
Ricardo Varona, 43, was arrested in July 2014 and charged with trafficking marijuana after police reported seizing 15 cannabis plants, which could have produced more than 30 pounds of usable marijuana. Varona was growing the marijuana in a bedroom of his home and said it was an act of love to help his wife, who is recovering from breast cancer, as per Reuters’ report.
Varona’s lawyer, Jose Aguirre, explained to jurors that he was growing the cannabis to “give his wife the medicine she needs,” and that police found no evidence to suggest he intended to sell the cannabis. “They want you to believe he is Pablo Escobar and Walter White,” Aguirre said, referring to the deceased Colombian cocaine baron and the drug dealing protagonist of the TV series “Breaking Bad.”“All he was trying to do was give his wife the medicine she needs.”
Prosecutors argued that Varona was growing way more cannabis than one person could consume, estimating the plants’ value at $90,000. More from High Times: Unfortunately, prosecutors are not buying into the idea that Varona was growing an estimated $90,000 worth of marijuana just so he could treat his wife’s breast cancer. Lead prosecutor David Emas said that while he may have been helping his wife, “he was helping out his wallet,” as well.
Florida passed a stringent medical marijuana law in 2014, which allows epilepsy patients to use CBD treatment (a non-psychoactive cannabinoid). Home cultivation is not permitted, and many conditions still do not qualify under Florida law for medical cannabis.