As a reflection of the growing public acceptance of marijuana legalization, the most populous county in Florida has recently passed a new ordinance that takes a major step towards that end.
Miami-Dade County now gives police officers the discretion to give a civil citation – normally a $100 fine or two days of community service – for those caught possessing no more than 20 grams of cannabis for personal use. Previously, those found in possession of cannabis were arrested and charged criminally, with the possibility of one year in jail.
Commissioners voted to pass the ordinance 10-3, reflecting a fairly broad consensus among county officials, as well as local residents. With officers given the chance to opt for either a criminal misdemeanor or civil offense, the criminal justice system’s resources (and for that matter taxpayer money) will be freed in order to combat other crimes.
In addition to clogging the court system and keeping police occupied from more pressing matters, backers of the proposal also pointed out the human costs of criminalization: namely that a marijuana arrest, like many other charges, may cause serious problems regarding eligibility for certain jobs, military service, student loans, and affordable-housing programs.
To be sure, the new measure, while a major change to the status quo, does not fully decriminalize (much less legalize) marijuana possession; it is left up to individual officer’s discretion. Moreover, public use of marijuana would remain a crime, while the new ordinance would apply only to possession for personal use.
Still, the change in Miami-Dade’s marijuana law represents a big step, especially as it is part of a larger change in the treatment of other minor offenses; police also have the option of issuing civil citations for loitering, littering, and the possession of drug paraphernalia.
This update is up to you by The Bauer Brofsky Law Firm, P.A., one of the leading South Florida Law Firms in the region. Founding partner Adam Brofsky is an experienced Criminal Law Attorney Miami who specializes on a broad range of legal matters related to criminal defense, personal injury, and juvenile dependency. With his meticulous attention to detail, exceptional one-on-one engage with clients, and steadfast dedication he has successfully defended and protected the rights of numerous individuals across Florida.
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