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Orlando Likely To Decriminalize Marijuana Also

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Good Article from the Orlando Sentinel On Latest Change In Florida Marijuana Laws:

Orlando may decriminalize small amounts of pot

Orlando could soon become the latest Florida city to effectively decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, allowing police officers to issue citations, rather than make arrests.

The City Council on Monday will consider an ordinance that would make possession of 20 grams (about two-thirds of an ounce) or less a violation of city code, carrying a fine of just $50 for first-time offenders, similar to a traffic ticket.

“I think, in this day and age, giving somebody a second chance … without establishing a criminal record helps improve their opportunities in the future,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who supports the measure.

Under Orlando’s ordinance, second-time offenders would face a fine of $100. Any subsequent citations would require a court appearance. It would take effect May 9.

Orlando police Chief John Mina said he supports its passage, calling it “the right thing to do.”

Mina said officers already have discretion to confiscate small amounts of marijuana without making an arrest, something he said they often do when no other crime is being committed.

“I think this just kind of makes it more official, from the top down,” he said.

Orlando is the latest in a number of cities and counties across the state, and the first major city in Central Florida, to pursue optional civil penalties for minor marijuana offenses.

Tampa and Volusia County both approved similar ordinances last month, and several South Florida governments, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, have similar policies.

Dyer said he monitored Tampa and Volusia County in deciding whether Orlando should pursue decriminalization.

“It has been, as far as I know, overwhelmingly supported by the community,” Dyer said.

According to the city, Orlando officers made 356 arrests of adults and 52 arrests of juveniles for misdemeanor marijuana possession last year. However, that includes cases in which suspects also faced other charges.

“I think the case where we arrest someone for just a small amount of marijuana and that’s it, that’s few and far between,” Mina said.

Decriminalization advocates say arrests for minor possession waste the time of police and courts and brand low-level offenders with a permanent record, with minorities and young people disproportionately affected.

Debbie Soto, chair of the progressive activist group Organize Now, hailed Orlando’s proposal.

“With our criminal justice system overloaded and focused on putting people in jail over nonviolent misdemeanors, communities of color have been disproportionately affected and many young people’s lives have been ruined,” she said.

But John Stemberger, president of the conservative Florida Family Policy Council, decried such ordinances as a step toward broader marijuana legalization.

“I think that legalization of any controlled substance should be done only for medicinal purposes that are appropriate and only after FDA approval,” he said.

Under state law, marijuana possession is still a misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

Mina said officers would still have the discretion to make arrests for misdemeanor possession, for example if a more serious crime is suspected, or if the suspect has a history with narcotics or dealing drugs.

But if someone, particularly a young person, has only a minor criminal history or none, “we don’t want to ruin their life by taking them to jail,” the police chief said.

Added Dyer, “Orlando’s all about opportunity, so this is one of the ways that we’re going to try to not take opportunity away from our citizens.”

For a link to the original article, click here

As always, we here at the Florida Medical Marijuana Directory will keep you posted on the changes in Florida marijuana law.

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