Every so often it is necessary to use this forum to celebrate success and this is one of those times.
About a month ago I reported on the case of Jesse Teplicki, a Florida man charged for the “crime” of growing marijuana plants in his home. If convicted Teplicki could have faced up to five years in jail.
Prior to the trial, prosecutors offered Teplicki the chance to avoid jail time if he accepted their probationary offer. However, Teplicki chose to fight the charges in court. He claimed that marijuana was the only medicine that helped him to treat severe chronic anorexia that he had dealt with since he was a child.
The state of Florida does not allow the possession or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes. Purchase or possession of more than twenty grams is a third degree felony. When officers raided his home they confiscated forty-six marijuana plants. Teplicki took a huge risk by placing his full faith in a jury of his peers. In order to win Teplicki needed to convince the jury that he was not cultivating marijuana to sell and that he only used the drug to treat his severe anorexia.
The jury believed Mr. Teplicki and sympathized with his plight. They acquitted him on all charges!
Prosecutors had called into question the amount of pot plants for just one person, but jurors said it was a case about compassion.
“This was a groundbreaking case and we are very pleased that the jury acquitted Mr. Teplicki on all charges,” said Michael Minardi, Teplicki’s attorney. “The evidence showed he was using cannabis to help him manage a serious and painful medical condition which he has endured for years.”
Teplicki is the first person in Florida to have a jury of his peers decide if he’s guilty or not of using marijuana as a medicine.
“I hope this invigorates the State of Florida and all people who are being charged with cannabis to fight,” Teplicki said. “That’s the only way you make change.”
The reverberations from this case could forever change how marijuana laws are enforced and prosecuted in the state of Florida. Prosecutors are paid to get convictions. If more and more juries find marijuana offenders not guilty based medical justifications, then prosecutors could be more hesitant to bring charges and police could become more hesitant to make arrests.
The ultimate goal should be for marijuana to be completely decriminalized and equally legal to the vegetables you grow in the garden. It should not matter if an individual chooses to ingest the drug recreationally to enhance a movie experience or a person uses the drug for medical purposes. Individuals should have say over what they put into their bodies. But this does not lessen the importance of the result in this trial. It is powerful to witness citizens refusing to go along with a coercive government’s call to imprison a non-violent man.
It is easy to forget that Jesse Teplicki could have chosen to take the probationary offer. He could have backed down from the challenge. Instead he chose to fight and by so doing will likely help others to avoid the fate of spending time behind bars for possessing a plant. Trials like this could be game changers for Florida and for the entire country. This is why I’m excited to share that Michael Minardi, Jesse Teplicki’s attorney, will be appearing on an upcoming episode of the Lions of Liberty Podcast with host Marc Clair. It will be an episode that you won’t want to miss!
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