Miami-Dade became the first county in the state of Florida to soften the Sunshine State’s harsh marijuana laws on Tuesday after county commissioners voted 10-3 to modify the county code.
Technically, this is not cannabis decriminalization, as Miami-Dade law enforcement still has the option of filing criminal misdemeanor charges against those busted with 20 grams or less for personal possession. However, officers can also treat simple cannabis violations as a civil offense, resulting in a citation and a $100 fine with no criminal record.
“We have better things to do with our police resources,” Commissioner Sally Heyman, who sponsored the ordinance, said. “For goodness’ sakes, we don’t have to destroy the lives of so many (who are criminally charged with possession).”
As reported by the Miami Herald, under current state and county laws, possession of any amount of weed can still result in incarceration, and that will not be altered by this change in the Miami-Dade code. Further, smoking pot in public remains a criminal offense. The new ordinance will take effect in 10 days and applies to all cities in Miami-Dade county, the most populated in the state.
County officials have yet to iron out the details as to when and how it would be appropriate to actually arrest someone for possessing a minor amount of pot. One possibility is that cops will only press criminal charges if the ganja is intended for sale or if someone in an auto accident is caught with weed. Repeat pot offenders may also face criminal sanctions.
These reforms in South Florida are long overdue, considering that 10 percent of all criminal cases in Miami-Dade County from 2010-2014 were for simple pot possession busts.