Florida is Decriminalizing Weed City By City. Is Legalization Next?

Florida decriminalizing weedAccording to the ACLU, more than half of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana. There are many reasons to decriminalize weed, not least of which is reducing the number of people who get incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. The criminalization of marijuana causes many people to lose their jobs and benefits, and negatively impacts other aspects of their lives. It also costs states billions of dollars to enforce marijuana laws each year. Unfortunately, marijuana criminalization also comes with bias — while its use is relatively equal among different races, people who are black are almost 4 times more likely to get arrested than users who are white. 

Marijuana is still banned at the federal level, and the government considers it a Schedule I substance. According to the DEA, that means it has no medical value and a high potential for being abused. With the information we have about marijuana today, it’s obvious the DEA’s description is outdated; however, state laws are slowly catching up to the science. Still, in Florida, adults may not use the drug without a prescription or medical marijuana card. It appears to be a pattern in which states that legalize medical marijuana eventually legalize recreational use as well.

After medicinal cannabis use was legalized in Florida, advocates began to push for the legalization of recreational use as well. Slowly, a patchwork of cities and counties in the Sunshine State began deciding that marijuana possession would no longer result in an arrest. In 2016, Orlando became one of the largest cities to pass an ordinance for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, though the vote was close: the City Council voted 4-3 in favor of the measure. 

If a police officer catches you with a small amount of marijuana in Orlando, you may be surprised to discover you’ll face a fine instead of an arrest. That’s also the case with a growing list of cities throughout Florida. Could the legalization of recreational marijuana be next?

What Penalties Could I Face in Orlando for Pot Possession?

Today, getting caught with a small amount of marijuana is like getting caught speeding or running a stop sign. In Orlando and many other cities, having weed is a civil infraction that leads to a fine. The fine is meant to serve as a warning, but it’s also designed to avoid ruining the lives of people who otherwise have clean records and lead productive lives.

A fine for possessing up to 20 grams of marijuana in Orlando is $100. A second offense of having up to 20 grams of marijuana on you results in a $200 fine. Those who can’t pay these fines can perform community service. However, having just 20 or more grams could prompt an arrest. The penalties for carrying 20 or more grams of marijuana — a felony drug charge — are severe. 

What Other Florida Cities Issue Fines for Marijuana Possession?

Several cities and counties in Florida have taken similar measures regarding decriminalizing the possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. Currently, the following cities and counties have agreed to issue citations rather than jail people for simple marijuana possession:

  • Miami-Dade County
  • Broward County
  • Palm Beach County
  • Volusia County
  • Key West
  • Tampa
  • Osceola County
  • Port Richey
  • Sarasota
  • Alachua County

Is Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Coming to Florida?

Marijuana legalization efforts lost steam when Make It Legal Florida came up short on petition signatures for another ballot referendum and got canceled early. Their proposal would have allowed:

  • Adults 21 and older to have, use, purchase, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and paraphernalia. 
  • Medical marijuana treatment centers to sell marijuana and other accessories

Floridians will not be voting for medical marijuana in 2020; rather, the signatures that Make It Legal Florida gathered — 295,072 verified ones or 38% of the signatures needed to have made it onto the ballot — will be valid for 2 more years. They will be used for a 2022 ballot initiative campaign. 

Contact an Orlando Marijuana Lawyer for Quality Criminal Defense

Although the City of Orlando has decriminalized marijuana, there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive a fine for possessing less than 20 grams of the substance. If you’re arrested for simple possession of marijuana, you could face a misdemeanor charge. With an attorney dedicated to a strong drug defense on your side, negotiations can be made with the prosecution to have your charge dropped or reduced.

Contact the team of attorneys with The Umansky Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your drug charge. Call 407-228-3838 24/7. We have more than 100 years of combined experience defending individuals accused of crimes throughout Central Florida. We fight aggressively to grant second chances.