As criminal defense lawyers in the Jacksonville, Florida area, we have taken on several new cases involving arrests for synthetic marijuana. These cases typically involve undercover police officers going into convenience stores and similar businesses that sell items they consider synthetic marijuana. The undercover officers will have a conversation with the store clerk about purchasing the substance to smoke it. They opften come back later in uniform and seize all of the alleged synthetic marijuana in the store, arrest the clerk and owner and sometimes seize any store money they can get their hands on.
Synthetic marijuana is not a legal term; it is a term invented by the police to attempt to make this product appear illegal. This alleged synthetic marijuana is typically sold under different names and can be used for different purposes, including smoking.
The government hears stories of some kids having side effects from the substance, and then they want to get involved and make the substance illegal. However, the problem is that something can only be illegal if a proper law has been passed sufficiently informing the public that the substance is illegal. The police cannot arrest someone because he/she is selling something the government thinks is dangerous in some cases. In order for a person to be properly charged with a state crime, the state legislature must pass a law making the possession and sale of the specific substance illegal and specifically identifying exactly what substance is illegal to possess and/or sell.
In the case of synthetic marijuana, many of the sellers are legitimate business owners who are selling the product openly in their stores. They may know that customers are buying the synthetic marijuana and smoking it, but until the state legislature determines that the substance is illegal, it is not clear that they are committing any crime by selling synthetic marijuana. As we have seen, many of these store owners are buying the substance openly from established manufacturers who provide a chemical lab report confirming that the substances being sold are not controlled substances and have not been deemed illegal by the state.
This is a relatively new area of law where the government may be making arrests first and asking questions as to whether the sale or possession of these substances is actually a violation of an established law later. If you have any questions about the possession or sale of synthetic marijuana or a similar substance, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. It is important to know your rights before getting involved with a controversial substance that the government may be trying to control.