While Florida is on its way to legalizing medical marijuana in the 2016 election, a Miami man is currently facing up to 35 years in prison for cultivating cannabis for his wife who suffering from breast cancer.
According to reports, Ricardo Varona was busted last year for growing 15 marijuana plants in his home. While the plants did provide a substantial amount of raw cannabis—30 pounds—authorities found nothing else inside the home to suggest that the weed was for anything other than personal use.
The fact that Varona is not a dangerous drug dealer is exactly what his attorney, Jose Aguirre, attempted to argue last week in court.
“They want you to believe he is Pablo Escobar and Walter White,” Aguirre said, explaining that investigators never found financial records, scales or packaging materials to indicate a drug trafficking operation.
“All he was trying to do was give his wife the medicine she needs,” he added.
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.
Although Florida passed a restricted medical marijuana law in 2014, it only allows epilepsy patients to receive access to a non-intoxicating CBD strain. No home cultivation is permitted. But even if it were, patients would not likely be allowed to grow more than six plants at a time.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of groups in the Sunshine State pushing to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes in the next presidential election. Just last year, a ballot initiative to legalize the medical use of marijuana failed to pass by only 2 points.
Furthermore, over half the United States has legalized marijuana in some form—a reasonably tight argument for why Varona should not be sent to prison for 35 years for simply growing some plants.
Reports indicate that Varona’s wife told the jury that before her cancer went into remission, she and her husband were making costly trips back and forth to Colorado to purchase marijuana edibles. She said that although she is feeling better, she continues to consume pot edibles as a precaution because cancer is so prevalent within her family genetics.
The prosecutor accused Varona’s wife of perjury and did everything he could to get the jury to enter a guilty verdict.
Hopefully, the jury consists of a few of the 58 percent of Florida residents who voted to legalize medical marijuana in last year’s election.