Florida: Miami Beach Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance

MIAMI BEACH, FL — City commissioners in Miami Beach have unanimously passed an ordinance that will allow police to give $100 citations to people caught possessing small amounts of marijuana instead of arresting them and sending them to jail.

The 5-0 vote Wednesday comes just a week after county commissioners in Miami-Dade County approved a similar proposal.  Both proposals give police the option of issuing a $100 civil citation to those caught possessing up to 20 grams of marijuana.

As part of Miami-Dade County, police in Miami Beach could have issued citations instead of arresting offenders under the county proposal. But by enacting the city-wide ordinance, fines collected from citations issued by Miami Beach Police will go to the city instead of the county.

Under Florida law, possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and fines up to $1,000.

Under both the city and county ordinances, police can still place an offender under arrest under state law at their discretion, which would most likely happen when offenders are caught smoking marijuana in public, in a vehicle, or if it seems that they are selling marijuana.

“We don’t want marijuana smoking on the streets. That’s still illegal,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. “It’s illegal to distribute or sell any marijuana or anything like that. But if someone’s caught with under 20 grams, we don’t want to ruin their lives.”

The Miami Beach Police Department said the ordinance will save the city about $40,000 in costs associated with the arrest and prosecution of possession cases.

The new ordinance takes effect in 10 days.

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