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Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > Drug Crime > Does the State Have to Prove the Origin of “Synthetic” Marijuana?

Does the State Have to Prove the Origin of “Synthetic” Marijuana?


One of the cardinal rules of the Florida criminal justice system is that a prosecutor must prove each element of a charged offense “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Put another way, it is not enough for the state to prove the defendant’s actions might have violated the letter of the law. It must be clear and unambiguous. “Close enough” will not suffice.

Florida Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Drug Charge

Consider this recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, State v. Arshadnia. In this case, prosecutors appealed a trial court’s decision to dismiss a drug charge against the defendant. But the appellate court agreed with the trial judge and the defendant that the state could not prove a key element of the charged offense.

The facts of the case were fairly straightforward. Law enforcement officers obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home. During the search, the officers found several marijuana plants and cereal bars. Subsequent testing determined the cereal bars contained THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Of critical importance, however, the police laboratory could not determine the actual source of the THC in the cereal bars.

Prosecutors subsequently charged the defendant with a number of drug crimes under Florida law. One of those charges alleged the defendant violated Section 893.135 of the Florida Statutes, which among other things forbids the trafficking of more than 1,000 grams of a “synthetic cannabinoid.”

This was the charge that the trial court dismissed. The reason was simple. The judge found that since the prosecution could not determine whether or not the THC in the cereal bars was “synthetic in origin,” the state could also not establish a necessary element of the charge.

The state appealed. In effect, it argued the use of the term “synthetic” was irrelevant and the statute applied to anything containing THC, regardless of its origin. The Third District disagreed. While the statute did not precisely define “synthetic cannabinoid,” the ordinary meaning of the word “synthetic” refers to something that is “not natural or genuine; artificial or contrived.” So the statute was clearly meant to bar “artificial substances designed to mimic naturally occurring cannabinoids.”

Citing a similar case from 2020 decided by the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the Third District noted that when the state cannot establish the actual origin of a cannabinoid, the court cannot simply assume it was synthetic in origin. The crime requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. As the state could not establish that element here, the trial court’s dismissal of the synthetic cannabinoid charge was proper.

Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today

Drug offenses often carry harsh prison sentences under federal and Florida state law. That is why you need to work with an experienced Orlando drug crimes lawyer who will carefully scrutinize the government’s case against you and advise you of any potential defenses you can present to a judge or jury. Contact the Joshi Law Firm, PA, today to schedule a consultation.



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