Orlando, Florida — Orlando has now passed an ordinance that decriminalizes the use of marijuana.
On Monday, the ordinance passed with a 4-3 vote.
Effective October first, those caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana, which is approximately 40 joints, would receive a citation for a fine of $100 for the first offense and $200 for a second offense. Those who do not pay could have the option of performing community service, or taking a substance abuse course.
Orlando is the first city in Central Florida to decriminalize marijuana.
On Monday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said that the change shows understanding and mercy
During a press conference, Mayor Dyer said, “What we are saying is, to someone who has made a youthful mistake for the first time and they have no other background of any sort and are not associated with any crimes, we are probably going to be able to give them a second chance.”
Two former police officers on the council, Tony Ortiz and Samuel Ings, as well as Commissioner Jim Gray opposed the new ordinance.
In July of 2015, Ocala Post reported that commissioners in Miami-Dade County, Florida, were the first in the state to pass an ordinance allowing marijuana (http://bit.ly/1QlQDDj) possession to be treated as a civil offense.
At that time, Ocala Post reached out to the Marion County Board of County Commissioners and asked, “Would the BOCC ever consider decriminalizing marijuana possession for anything under 20 grams?”
Marion County Public Information Officer Elaine DeIorio McClain wrote, “Commissioner Arnett has been working with the Sheriff and others regarding a new ‘civil citation program’ that offers certain first-time arrestees of non-violent offenses the opportunity for a first arrest to be handled through a civil citation process.”
Ocala Post then informed the BOCC that passing such an ordinance is not the decision of the Sheriff. And even though law enforcement could possibly use their own discretion whether or not to arrest an individual for marijuana possession, as do many Florida law enforcement agencies; ultimately, it is the job of the BOCC to vote on such an ordinance.
Ocala Post also stated to the BOCC that they had not answered the exact question.
“The BCC will not determine the specific offenses applicable under the program we referenced. The specific item (marijuana) you’re writing on is not currently on the BCC agenda,” Public Information Officer McClain said. She went on to say, “That is a question for the Commission. We have forwarded your request to our commissioners, as they would be the ones to advise if they would consider it.”
Marion County has not made any progress with adopting a similar ordinance.
In fact, according to the Public Policy Institute of Marion County, Inc., Marion County’s incarceration rate is 1.5 times the state average.
Commissioners in Broward County, Miami Beach, and Gainesville are currently discussing a similar ordinance.
We want to hear from you. Do you think Marion County should decriminalize marijuana?