Florida’s Miami-Dade County recently passed an ordinance that will allow law enforcement officials to issue civil citations as an alternative to arrest for cannabis possession.
The new county-wide law applies to anyone caught with fewer than 20 grams of marijuana. This equates to just under an ounce of cannabis. Violators will be subject to a $100 fine or community service. The ordinance will go into effect on July 10.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman stated,
“We have thousands and thousands of people brought into the criminal justice system for nonviolent misdemeanors that destroy their options for the future.”
Mayor Philip Levine also spoke favorably of the new law saying,
“We don’t want marijuana smoking on the streets. That’s still illegal. . . .But if someone’s caught with under 20 grams, we don’t want to ruin their lives.”
The commissioners passed the ordinance with a 10 to 3 vote in favor of the legislation. Police officials have said they will have to create guidelines concerning when it is appropriate to issue a civil citation instead of arresting the individual. The decision about whether or not to arrest will be at the officer’s discretion. Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says 14 states have enacted similar reforms.
With the new law, the county stands to benefit its citizens by sparing them misdemeanor criminal charges. Furthermore, the ordinance will relieve some of the criminal justice system’s economic burden since jails will not need to house as many nonviolent offenders. Overall, political officials received the new legislation favorably with only commissioners Estaban Bovo, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Souto voting against it.