Can I Buy Weed from Circle K?

November 4, 2022 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, News & Announcements

Word travels fast—and it seems like everyone is looking at Circle K after its owner announced a new partnership set to begin next year. The gas station franchise is pairing up with one of the nation’s largest cannabis producers to bring medical marijuana to gas stations (or at least right next door.)

The announcement has raised lots of questions, such as who exactly can purchase the “gas station weed?” This article will explain the partnership and its regulations, along with providing information on marijuana charges in Florida.

Circle K and Green Thumb

A new partnership between Circle K and one of the largest cannabis producers in the U.S. is making its way to Florida. According to its website, Circle K has over 7,000 stores across the nation, with 642 locations in Florida.

Circle K owner Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. announced its new partnership with Chicago-based Green Thumb on Wednesday. The two companies will begin working together to start selling marijuana at 10 “RISE Express” dispensaries.

Green Thumb CEO Ben Kovler said depending on sales at the 10 experimental stores, “[we] could expand to more Circle K locations.” This agreement with Circle K is, “the first example of premium cannabis retail being offered in one of the largest convenience store chains in the country,” Kovler said in an email. “Convenience stores are one of the fastest growing shopping verticals and we’re excited to meet cannabis consumers where they are.”

The goal of the partnership is to create an easier and more efficient way for people with medical marijuana cards to purchase high-quality cannabis. As of now, anyone with a medical marijuana card must go to a stand-alone dispensary to purchase THC products.

The products intended to be sold at the partnership store will include marijuana flowers, pre-rolls, gummies, and vapes. Green Thumb is planning to build a 28-acre facility in Ocala, Florida which will supply all of the stores.

One important thing to note is that the THC products will not physically be inside Circle K. “To be clear, Circle K is not selling cannabis in its U.S. stores,” a spokesperson told CBS. Green Thumb will have the “RISE Express” dispensaries located in the same building structure as Circle K, but with a separate entrance.

It is also an important reminder that not anyone can go into the dispensary—each person must be at least 18 years old with a valid medical marijuana card.

Medical Marijuana in Florida

Medical marijuana was first introduced in Florida through the Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. The bill was perceived as highly restrictive, and it would take another two years before it became legal. Amendment 2 appeared on Florida ballots in 2016, and the initiative was approved by 71% of voters—finally making medical marijuana legal in the state.

Under Amendment 2, an individual can legally purchase medical marijuana from a regulated store if they receive signed documentation from a physician. The physician must be able to determine that the benefits of the drug outweigh any of the potential health risks.

Originally, the Amendment only allowed for medical marijuana to be consumed by vaping or as oils, pills, or sprays. However, in 2018 Leon County Judge Karen Gievers ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban smoking. The bill to remove the prohibition from smoking medical marijuana was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019. A year later in 2020, edible products also became legal after the Florida Department of Health published regulations on the products.

According to Florida Medical Association, the following is a list of steps that a Florida medical marijuana Doctor must take in order to receive a physician certification to dispense medical marijuana:  

  • Conduct an in-person physical exam and review the patient’s medical history
  • Diagnose the patient with a qualifying medical condition.
  • Determine that the use of medical marijuana would outweigh the potential health risks.
  • Determine whether the patient is pregnant. A pregnant patient may only be issued a certification for low-THC cannabis.
  • Review the patient’s history of controlled substance use in the PDMP.
  • Obtain a voluntary and informed written consent from the qualified physician.
  • Register as the issuer of the certificate for the qualified patient in the Registry. Information that must be documented in the Registry includes:
    • The patient’s qualifying condition and dosage
    • The amount and form of marijuana authorized
    • Any types of marijuana delivery devices needed
  • Update the Registry within 7 days of any changes.

Marijuana Possession Charges in Florida

Despite the new deal with Green Thumb, Circle K’s business decisions do not change the current laws on possession of marijuana in Florida. The state still lists marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, and without a medical marijuana card you could find yourself with criminal charges.

Charges and penalties for possession of marijuana without a medical card vary depending on the quantity of substance found in actual or constructive possession. The following is a list of marijuana possession offenses and their penalties:

  • 20 grams or less – Considered simple possession; first-degree misdemeanor, with up to a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.
  • 20 grams – 25 pounds – Considered felony possession; third-degree felony, with up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
  • 25 pounds or 300 plants – Considered trafficking cannabis; can range from a third-degree felony up to a first-degree felony. A first-degree felony has up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

To find out more about marijuana charges and how we can help defend your case, read our informative page here.  

Driving While High in Florida  

Although Florida has legalized medical marijuana, let’s address the elephant in the room. Circle K is a gas station, which means people typically drive to get there. So what happens if a person with a medical marijuana card wishes to purchase something from Circle K’s new partnership store?

Driving while high, or “drugged driving” refers to when an individual is operating a vehicle while under the influence of any chemical or controlled substance. Florida considers you to be under the influence of drugs if your normal faculties are impaired. Meaning that the drug or substance has impacted your physical or mental abilities and has made it unsafe for you to operate a vehicle. Therefore, driving under the influence of cannabis is still against the law.

Under the law, these faculties include being able to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, make judgments, act in emergencies, and drive a vehicle in a normal manner.  If a person is arrested for a DUI or reckless driving and the officer believes the driver is under the influence of a drug, they can request a blood or urine sample.

Florida Statute section 316.1932 explains that any individual operating a vehicle is required to give consent for a blood or urine sample for the purpose of detecting any controlled substances. If the defendant refuses to submit a urine or blood sample, it is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor is up to a $500 fine and up to one year in jail.

For a first-time offense, drugged driving can have a penalty of a $500 to $1,000 fine, up to six months in jail, and a license suspension of 180 days up to one year. For a second offense, the penalties raise from $,1000 to $2,000 in fines, up to nine months in jail, mandatory ignition interlock, license suspension of 180 days up to one year, mandatory one-year probation, and a 10-day vehicle impoundment.

Even with marijuana becoming widely accepted in the state of Florida, it still remains against the law to drive behind the wheel of a car after smoking or ingesting THC. If you or a loved one have been accused of drugged driving, make sure you speak with a skilled defense attorney.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Without a medical marijuana card, a person can still get in a lot of trouble for possessing marijuana. If you or someone you know has been charged with possession of marijuana or trafficking cannabis, it is imperative to seek out legal help. A skilled criminal defense attorney in Florida will work with you to build a strong defense for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients across Florida. Contact us for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.  

Written by Karissa Key

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