Drugs

Miami-Dade Commissioners Approve $100 Fine for Pot Possession

Miami-Dade commissioners eased up on pot smokers by approving a measure that will allow police to charge users with a civil crime that would require them to pay a $100 fine and leave no spot on their permanent record.

Though state and federal laws remain in effect, the measure gives officers the opportunity to issue tickets to those who have less than 20 grams of marijuana. The county commission approved the law, sponsored by Commissioners Sally Heyman and Daniella Levine Cava, by a 10-3 vote in Tuesday's meeting.

The ordinance takes effect in ten days, and because it was approved in two votes, it affects cities and unincorporated areas.

Broward County is considering a similar measure. On June 23, commissioners began discussing a measure that would decriminalize the drug. Miami Beach also has begun deliberations. 

The measure passed Tuesday will allow police more latitude in dealing with other minor crimes as well. Those backing the measure, including Heyman and judges as well as lawmen, said it would free up police to deal with more serious problems.

The measure follows an investigation by former New Times and Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede that showed blacks are far more likely to be arrested than whites in Miami-Dade County — and  that 10 percent of all cases in county court relate to misdemeanor pot.

"People make mistakes, and they shouldn't have a criminal record that destroys their future possibilities for minor offenses," Heyman says. 

Medical marijuana legalization, which nearly passed as a Florida constitutional amendment in a vote in 2014, is expected back in 2016. It will likely pass.
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse