Orlando may decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana

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Orlando could soon become the next Florida city to decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.

  • City Council will discuss and vote on ordinance Monday
  • If passed, police officers could issue citations rather than make arrests
  • Tampa passed similar ordinance last month

The City Council will discuss and vote on an ordinance Monday that would make possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less (about two-thirds of an ounce) a violation.

Violators would be issued a citation rather than arrested.

“What we are saying is if there is someone who has made a youthful mistake, it’s their first time and they have no criminal background of any sort and they are not associated with any other crime, we are probably going to be able to give them a second chance,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who announced the plan with Orlando Police Chief John Mina Wednesday.

Currently, if someone is found with up to 20 grams of marijuana, they face a year in jail and a $ 1,000 fine.

If this passes, police would have discretion over whether a person should be arrested.

“I think the spirit is especially for young people who don’t have a criminal history or have little or no criminal history, to give them this code violation in lieu of arrest," Mina said. "But obviously the people who continue to sell drugs and possess drugs with the intent to sell and commit other offenses, those people will go to jail.”

City officials were approached to make the change from a group called Organize Now.

The group says the arrests for first-time minor drug possession is causing people to lose out on future work, acceptance to the military and even student loans.

Orlando isn’t the first city in the state to consider a similar policy. A number of cities and counties have implemented new policies that offer civil penalties for minor marijuana offenses.

Not everyone is in favor of the plan. One Orlando resident believes it will simply encourage more drug use.

“They’ll smoke it because they know that there is not a big penalty," said Benjamin Purdum. "If you keep the penalty to where it hurts, then it discourages the youth and the children participation.”

Both Volusia County and the City of Tampa passed similar ordinances last month, giving law enforcement the option to ticket or arrest someone with less than 20 grams.

St. Petersburg is also considering a similar proposal.

Bay News 9 – local-news

April 13, 2016 |

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