Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones of Florida introduced a bill in the legislature on Monday that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under the measure, House Bill 25 (HB 25), possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana or cannabis products containing up to 600 milligrams of THC would no longer be a criminal offense.
Currently, possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis is considered a first-degree misdemeanor subject to up to one year in jail or one year of probation and a $1,000 fine. Under Jones’ plan, such offenses would be a noncriminal violation subject to a fine of up to $500.
Legislator Hopes Bill Will ‘Restore Justice’
Jones, who represents a district including parts of Broward County, said in a tweet announcing the bill that HB 25 would end the injustice of overcriminalization and address the racial inequality prevalent in the enforcement of drug laws in the United States.
“We must restore justice to our broken criminal justice system,” Jones said. “For far too long, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana, and we must end this injustice once and for all.”
Jones noted that convictions for minor marijuana offenses carry significant collateral effects including the potential loss of a license to drive, disqualification from eligibility for government jobs, and other negative impacts.
“After being charged with possession, many Floridians feel the lasting impact as their student financial aid, employment opportunities, housing eligibility, or immigration status are adversely affected,” Jones said. “When we take away these foundational components of security, we’re capping people’s potential in life. That’s why I’m proud to introduce legislation to fix this problem. By tackling this issue, we can make our communities more equitable and safer.”
Also under Jones’ bill, juveniles caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana would be eligible for a civil citation or pre-arrest diversion for their first offense.
Jones filed HB 25 for the 2020 legislative session, which begins in January. If the bill passes it would go into effect on July 1, 2020, making Florida the 27th state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Will Legalization Be Next?
Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis with a constitutional amendment initiative passed in 2016. On Tuesday, Orlando personal injury attorney John Morgan, who bankrolled the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, said that he is now supporting efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.
Morgan had said previously he would not back the issue, opting instead to support a campaign to raise Florida’s minimum wage. But he said in a tweet on Tuesday that he was now getting behind the drive to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in the state.
“I believe that #marijuana should be legal!!” Morgan wrote. “I think we have time and I think there is money to get it done. I already have the minimum wage signatures. Let’s do this maybe, forget Tallahassee!”
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