It's not often you see a commissioner from one Miami-Dade municipality protesting outside another's city hall. Yet that's exactly what South Miami Commissioner Walter Harris did when he recently carried a poster board depicting a giant marijuana leaf outside Miami Beach City Hall. Harris joined other protesters to try to persuade Miami Beach to put marijuana decriminalization on the ballot.
Recently, a group of pot activists collected more than 9,000 signatures to put the decriminalization of carrying small amounts of marijuana on the ballot. The petition was presented to the Miami Beach City Commission earlier this month, though it might take awhile before Miami Beach residents actually get to vote on the matter.
Harris was photographed with members of the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy supporting the measure and was unapologetic about his stance when questioned by South Miami News.
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"Fifteen states and the District of Colombia have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. And rather than tie up the court system, cost taxpayers money, and delay police officers with more reports, this seems like a good solution for people who have no problem getting hold of marijuana and are going to continue to smoke regardless of its legal status," Harris told the paper.
"The idea that marijuana is a gateway drug is nonsense -- it is not," he continued. "Is alcohol a gateway drug? No deaths in the state of Florida or in the United States have ever been attributed to a marijuana overdose, unlike alcohol and other drugs."
Harris, a lawyer turned photographer and the father of popular local musician Raffa Jo Harris, has served on the commission since 2010.