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Florida: Largest County Depenalizes Marijuana Possession Offenses

Thursday, 09 July 2015

Florida: Largest County Depenalizes Marijuana Possession Offenses

Miami, FL: Commissioners in Florida's largest county decided last week in favor of an ordinance that permits police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders.

Commissioners for Miami-Dade county voted 10 to 3 in favor of a countywide ordinance to treat marijuana possession offenses involving 20 grams or less as a civil infraction, punishable by a $100 fine -- no arrest, no criminal prosecution, no incarceration, and no criminal record. The new ordinance takes effect later this week.

Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. According to an analysis by the ACLU, an estimated 60,000 Floridians are arrested for cannabis possession violations annually - the third highest statewide total in the nation.

According to a countywide analysis by CBS News, misdemeanor marijuana arrests accounted for 10 percent of all cases filed in the Miami-Dade criminal court system between the years 2010 and 2014. While African Americans comprise just 20 percent of the county's population, they comprised over half of all of those arrested for marijuana possession offenses.

Senior county officials have yet to provide explicit details in regard to how police will implement the new law or what criteria they will use to determine whether to issue a citation or make an arrest.

Several metropolitan areas, such as Milwaukee and Philadelphia, have previously enacted local decriminalization ordinances.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit NORML of Florida at: http://www.normlfl.org.