The presidency wasn’t the only thing on the line on Nov. 8 in the state of Florida. We also had a vote for legalizing medical marijuana, an initiative that passed with a resounding 71 percent of the ballots cast in favor of the measure. The measure will give the state control over dispensaries and marijuana will still be illegal to grow for personal use. How possession of medical marijuana will work and other complexities and details about the law are still being determined.

Florida is now one of 28 states that have legalized marijuana in some form (may it be for recreational use or medical use). This growing trend marks a serious shift in cultural thought about this substance. However, federal guidelines still hold firm that marijuana is an illegal substance. 

The federal scheduling system labels marijuana as a Schedule I substance, which is the highest classification an illegal substance can receive. The Drug Enforcement Agency controls this scheduling, and with marijuana as a Schedule I substance, it means people who possess or deal this drug and are caught are subjected to the harshest punishment possible. Federal drug charges carry extreme penalties, and anyone accused of federal drug crimes needs to defend themselves.

What is good to see is this movement at the state level to decriminalize this substance which causes so much pain to people who are caught with it, even though there seems to be a clear medical benefit to it. We can only hope similar revisions and improvements to the criminal justice system occur, and as quickly, in the coming years.