More Florida Cities Looking At Decriminalizing Marijuana

State Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, has proposed decriminalizing possessing a small amount of marijuana possession but the idea has drawn fire.

Under current state law, anyone caught with 20 grams or less of illegal marijuana faces a first-degree misdemeanor offense.

Jones’ bill would lessen that penalty so that an individual caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana would face being charged with a noncriminal violation instead of a misdemeanor, getting a ticket and not being arrested.

Several Florida cities aren’t waiting on Tallahassee and are moving forward with their own legislation to decriminalize some degrees of marijuana possession.

Orlando, Key West, Tampa and Daytona Beach have led that charge. Most of those cities have local ordinances which have first-time offenders caught with 20 grams or less being fined between $75 to $100.

Now more cities are addressing the issues at the local level. Recently, the Sarasota City Commission passed a bill which decriminalizes possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. If caught, an individual would be fined $100 or have to complete 10 hours of community service.

Not all cities are on board with the idea. The Jacksonville City Council voted against a bill from City Councilman Garrett Dennis which was in line with other proposals across the state. But the bill went down to defeat on a 15-3 vote.

In the meantime, several cities across Florida are moving forward with decriminalization proposals and the supporters of these efforts insist the polls are in their favor.

Dennis cited a University of North Florida (UNF) poll taken in June which showed 84 percent of Duval County voters support decriminalization at some levels.

As the debates on marijuana continue across cities throughout Florida, there are questions about what should be left in police officers’ discretion.

One police union representative told Florida Daily that, for the most part, officers should be able to use their discretion which can be decisive. This police leader said that most officers will write a citation for first-time offenders and if no “red flags” come up during background checks.

Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams and other sheriffs across Florida have said that they see no need for this issue to be decided at the local level.

 

Reach Ed Dean at ed.dean@floridadaily.com.

 

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