As the tide of public support is turning, an unlikely advocate has arisen: the Town of Cutler Bay. Last month, the town council voted in favor of a resolution to support recreational marijuana, saying the economic benefits to Florida would be significant.
"If you’re not prosecuting people who are using it illegally today, that alone has a financial advantage for the entire state and any municipality with its own law enforcement," Councilman Roger Coriat said at the July 17 meeting.
Coriat, who sponsored the item, said that he believes the state is moving in the right direction when it comes to regulating marijuana and that there's been "inconsistent treatment of marijuana" compared to alcohol or tobacco.
"Our attitudes change, our perceptions change, and I want us [as a town] to remain progressive in our mentality," Coriat said.
Councilman Robert "B.J." Duncan agreed that arrests for marijuana possession tie up local law enforcement officers and the court system.
"As it is now, you have people that will partake in using marijuana, and their punishment for using marijuana, from a legal standpoint, is umpteen times greater than the punishment for CEOs of large corporations when they do something they're not supposed to," Duncan said.
The resolution passed on a 4-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Sue Ellen Loyzelle dissenting. Loyzelle said she would like to see more research before supporting full legalization.
Although the council overwhelmingly spoke in favor of recreational marijuana, members stressed that tight regulation by the state is necessary. Councilman Michael Callahan said his biggest issue with the current medical marijuana system is that dispensaries are regulated like pharmacies, which means there are few restrictions about where they can be located.
"Right now, if a medical marijuana dispensary wants to open right next to a school or a daycare center, it can do that," he said. "We can certainly thank the State of Florida for that idiot type of legislation, but unfortunately, that's the way it is right now."