The City of Orlando is looking to follow the lead other Florida cities have taken to decriminalize the possession of marijuana under 20 grams, proposing a civil citation instead of arrest. Yes, Orlando is finally joining a wave sweeping the state and country on this issue.
According to city officials, police officers currently have the options to arrest, or confiscate the contraband and release the suspect with a warning when confronting a suspect with 20 grams or less of marijuana in Florida. Now, the City of Orlando wants to provide officers a third option of issuing a citation and confiscating the contraband. First time offenses would carry a $50 citation and second-time offenses would carry a $100 fine. After that, marijuana citations would require a court appearance.
“This option is not as harsh as an arrest, which can result in jail time and the possibility of a life-long criminal record, but still holds the offender responsible for their behavior,” Mayor Dyer said. Orlando Police Chief John Mina supports the ordinance as well.
Last month, I urged Mayor Dyer and City Commissioners to bring this issue before the City Council for a discussion and a vote after Tampa voted to decriminalize possession. When I pressed the Dyer administration in March, even top City Hall staffers would not commit. “At this point, staff is still in the evaluation process so there is not a decision as to if this will come before the Orlando City Council,” Cassandra Lafser, the Mayor’s Press Secretary said in March.
At that time just a few weeks ago, all City Commissioners also remained silent when asked their position on the matter, waiting for their final orders from Dyer before commenting. Now that the ordinance will finally come before the City Council, there is no doubt the Commissioners will support it.
While it would be nice for the City of Orlando to lead the state on progressive change considering how overwhelmingly Democratic the constituency is, this is finally a good start on this issue.
One important matter for City Commissioners to discuss at the meeting will be enforcement, as the ordinance would leave the decision up to the police officers. If it is at the LEO’s discretion whether to give a citation or make an arrest, there should be very clear policies and procedures to ensure the decisions will be made fairly and consistently, without regard to race or any other factors.
The Orlando City Council will discuss the proposed ordinance on Monday and the ordinance would take effect on May 9th.