Marijuana news from contributing authors and staff writers on the latest in marijuana and medical marijuana
This month is off to a great start for marijuana reform in Florida. Both West Palm Beach and Key West became the latest Florida cities to enact measures intended to replace most marijuana arrests with civil penalties. The Key West City Commission voted unanimously to allow police to issue a $100 fine for possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana, rather than arresting and prosecuting people who have chosen a substance safer than alcohol. West Palm Beach approved a similar ordinance. This trend began in July, when Miami-Dade County reclassified marijuana possession so that police could issue a civil fine in lieu of arresting Floridians. Since then the cities of Miami Beach and Hallandale Beach have followed suit. Similar measures are being considered by Alachua, Broward, and Monroe counties.
Unfortunately, simple possession remains a crime under state law, and police officers may still choose to arrest under that authority. Statewide, possession of small amounts of marijuana carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000. According to retired Florida judge Rand Hoch marijuana arrests weigh down the system, “One out of every two offenses, drug offenses that end up in court, are for marijuana.” Statistics from police in Miami Beach show that processing an arrest for possession costs taxpayers five times as much as issuing a citation. A marijuana arrest can also result in a lasting criminal record that diminishes opportunities related to employment, housing, financial aid, scholarships, and immigration. “You have these cases that are going to court, which are already over burdened,” Judge Hoch says. “Anything that can ease the burden on the court and help people not get saddled with a criminal record is beneficial.”