Miami Beach Pot Petition Presented to Commission, But Vote Could Take Awhile

A triumphant group of pot activists presented the Miami Beach Commission yesterday with more than 9,000 signatures in favor of decriminalizing small amounts of weed -- but damned if city attorney Jose Smith didn't do his best to harsh their mellow.

Smith, despite admitting he hadn't actually read the petition, questioned its constitutionality. Beach commissioners, meanwhile, declined to put the measure on a ballot this fall. Organizer Ford Banister tells Riptide he's not worried, though. "It will be on the ballot in Miami Beach," he says. "This will be the first city in Florida with a chance to vote to decriminalize marijuana."

The petition would change the city's charter to give cops the discretion to issue $100 fines for small amounts of pot rather than filing criminal charges. Dozens of states have considered similar measures, and Massachusetts passed one in 2008.

Assuming at least 4,300 of the signatures gathered by Banister's group, Sensible Florida, pass muster, the measure should head to a vote on the Beach.

Unfortunately, Banister says, there's likely to be quite a bit of legal wrangling first over the wording of the measure. If there's a disagreement with city clerks, a circuit court judge could rule on the issue.

Still, the organizer says Smith was wrong to question the measure's constitutionality. "He admitted he hasn't seen the petition at all," Banister said. "He was confused on the issues."

The measure seems unlikely to end up on this fall's municipal ballot, but Banister says he expects it to go to a vote sometime in the next 12 months.

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