Pot Possession Will Now Be Fined In Miami-Dade County
The Miami-Dade County commission voted Tuesday to allow civil penalties for certain misdemeanors, including possession of drug paraphernalia and up to 20 grams of marijuana.
Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald reports:
Miami-Dade commissioners voted Tuesday to let police treat marijuana possession the same way they do littering and loitering — issuing a civil citation with a $100 fine that keeps the offense out of the criminal system. “We have better things to do with our police resources,” said Commissioner Sally Heyman, sponsor of the ordinance. “For goodness’ sakes, we don't have to destroy the lives of so many.” The change in county code passed 10-3, marking a milestone in how Florida's largest local government treats marijuana offenses. The new ordinance gives police officers the option of either charging pot possession as a criminal misdemeanor or as a civil offense — which brings a fine but no criminal record — for possession of 20 grams or less, enough for about three dozen joints. Backers pointed to the damage a marijuana arrest can cause, jeopardizing eligibility for certain jobs, military service, student loans and affordable-housing programs. Advocates also said marijuana arrests are clogging the court system and keeping police too busy. “It would be stunning to you the amount of taxpayer dollars that is utilized every time someone is charged with a simple offense of possession of marijuana,” said Judge Samuel Slom, who oversees the court branch that handles misdemeanor cases. “It takes the officer off their beat. Instead of protecting the community, now they're transporting someone from as far away as south Kendall all the way to the Dade County jail." Slom and other backers of the ordinance emphasized that the change does not de-criminalize marijuana possession, since officers would still have the option of filing criminal charges. State and county law provides jail time and fines for possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana, and that would not change. Police director J.D. Patterson also said smoking marijuana in public would remain a crime, and that the new ordinance would only apply to possession.
The new ordinance takes effect in 10 days.
Here is the Board of Commissioners' language: