Orlando may soon become the latest city in Florida to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, according to local news reports.
The new ordinance will be considered by the Orlando City Council next week, and would allow police officers to issue tickets instead of making arrests for minor marijuana possession.
The new law would make possession of up to 20 grams a violation of city code and subject the possessor to a $50 fine for a first time violation. A second violation would carry a $100 fine, while a third violation would require a court appearance.
If the ordinance passes it would go into effect on May 9 and could have a considerable effect on the [initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida], which will be on the ballot in November.
Support for Decriminalization
The ordinance has the support of both the city’s mayor and its police chief.
"I think, in this day and age, giving somebody a second chance … without establishing a criminal record helps improve their opportunities in the future," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
Police Chief John Mina said that officers already have discretion in cases where small amounts of marijuana are involved, and often confiscate it instead of making an arrest when no other crime is being committed. According to Chief Mina, the new law will make the informal discretion police officers already have “more official, from the top down.”
Orlando is the latest in a number of Florida counties around the state who have already decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.
Most recently Tampa and Volusia County approved similar ordinances while local governments in other counties including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach already have such an ordinance in place.
The Orlando City Council’s decision to consider such a measure represents a growing support for some form of marijuana legalization in the state.
Although full legalization may be still be some ways off, a referendum will be held on the legalization of medical marijuana on election day this coming November.
Amendment 2, as the initiative is known, came up two percentage points short of the 60 percent it needed for ratification.
However, this year the initiative already has more support than it did in 2012. A Public Policy Poll conducted in March revealed that 65 percent of the Floridians surveyed supported the passage of amendment 2.
The effort to pass amendment 2 is supported by Morgan & Morgan founder John Morgan, a long time advocate for medical marijuana legalization in Florida. A proud resident of Orlando, John announced his support for the new ordinance in a tweet congratulating Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for “doing the right thing!”