On May 9, 2016, the Orlando City Council voted to approve a marijuana decriminalization ordinance; a move that aligns the city of Orlando alongside several other Florida cities including Tampa and West Palm Beach.
The new ordinance takes effect in October and reduces possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana to a code violation carrying a fine in the amount of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and a mandatory court appearance for a third offense. Those arrested under the new ordinance will not have a criminal record.
The move was supported by Orlando Police Chief John Mina who suggested that decriminalization of smaller marijuana offenses will free up resources for more serious crimes; a sentiment that seems to be growing not only in the State of Florida but across the nation. The city of St. Petersburg is also considering a marijuana decriminalization proposal.
As November’s vote on Amendment 2 draws near, I expect to see more cities and counties adopt this efficiency and cost savings measure as a means to free up law enforcement resources for more worthwhile policing activities. Likewise, the state court systems will see a decreased burden on an already overworked criminal court.