We first wrote about this trend in July when Florida’s largest county, Miami-Dade, passed an ordinance allowing local law enforcement to treat marijuana possession offenses involving 20 grams or less as a civil infraction, punishable by a $100 fine.
Key West City City officials are poised to finalize a similar measure in September while lawmakers in Palm Beach County are considering taking similar action. Decriminalization is also gaining momentum among lawmakers in the city of St. Petersburg.
These changes to local laws are especially significant in Florida, where state lawmakers have failed to even consider amending its archaic and overly punitive marijuana policies. Consequently, Florida possesses the third highest annual marijuana possession arrest total (roughly 60,000 arrests per year) in the nation.
But that may soon change. Advocates, including Florida NORML, are pushing a 2016, ballot initiative aimed at legalizing the adult use of marijuana, while a separate measure to amend the state’s medical marijuana laws is also expected to be decided by voters (in 2014 the measure narrowly failed to meet the state’s 60% vote requirement). According to a Quinnipiac poll conducted last year, 88% of Florida residents support legalizing marijuana for medical use and 55% of residents support legalizing the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana.
It’s clear that Florida residents are fed up with policies that treat those who possess marijuana as criminals and are looking to their local governments to lead the way in reforming these policies. NORML encourages you to contact your local city commissioners and urge them to consider adopting decriminalization policies in your communities.
Police in Florida’s largest county will soon have the option to cite, rather than arrest, minor marijuana offenders.
Commissioners for Miami-Dade county voted 10 to 3 this week in favor of a countywide ordinance to treat marijuana possession offenses involving 20 grams or less as a civil infraction, punishable by a $100 fine — no arrest, no criminal prosecution, no incarceration, and no criminal record. The new ordinance takes effect late next week.
Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. According to an analysis by the ACLU, an estimated 60,000 Floridians are arrested for cannabis possession violations annually — the third highest statewide total in the nation.
According to a countywide analysis by CBS, misdemeanor marijuana arrests accounted for 10 percent of all cases filed in the Miami-Dade criminal court system between the years 2010 and 2014. While African Americans comprise just 20 percent of the county’s population, they comprised over half of all of those arrested for marijuana possession offenses.
Senior county officials have not yet provided details in regard to how police will implement the new law or what criteria they will use to determine whether to issue a citation or make an arrest.
The majority of voters in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania support permitting adults to possess marijuana legally, and super-majorities in all three states endorse allowing doctors to recommend cannabis therapy, according to survey data published today by Quinnipiac University.
Fifty-five percent of Florida voters say that they support allowing adults “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” (Forty-two percent oppose the idea.) In Ohio, voters back legalization by a margin of 52 percent to 44 percent. In Pennsylvania, 51 percent of voters favor legalizing marijuana versus 45 percent who oppose doing so.
Voters sentiment in favor of legalizing the plant’s availability for therapeutic purposes is even stronger. Pollsters reported that voters in all three states back medical marijuana legalization by margins of five to one: 84 percent to 14 percent in Florida, 84 percent to 15 percent in Ohio, and 88 percent to 10 percent in Pennsylvania.
Legislation seeking to regulate the plant’s use and retail sale is pending in both Florida and Pennsylvania, though to date, lawmakers have yet to hold hearings on either bill. Legislation to permit regulatory access to medical cannabis is also pending in both states.
Oregon and Alaska legalized and regulated the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults, while voters residing in the nation’s capitol and in numerous other cities nationwide similarly decided this Election Day to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.
Voters in two states decided in favor of a pair of statewide measures to regulate the commercial production, retail sale, and personal use of marijuana by adults. Alaska and Oregon are the third and fourth states to enact regulations on the licensed production and sale of cannabis, joining Colorado and Washington. All four states have enacted their marijuana legalization laws via voter initiative.
Commenting on the new laws’ passage, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The majority of voters in these states, like a majority of voters nationwide, agree that a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or potential abuse. Elected officials in Alaska, Oregon, and elsewhere should welcome the opportunity to bring these common sense and long overdue regulatory controls to the commercial cannabis market.”
Under the new Oregon proposal (Measure 91), adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for personal use (up to four marijuana plants and eight ounces of usable marijuana at a given time) will not be subject to taxation or commercial regulations. Imposition of the new law will not “amend or affect in any way the function, duties, and powers of the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.” The legalization measure takes effect on July 1, 2015.
Under the Alaska measure (Ballot Measure 2), the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants for personal consumption will be legal and untaxed. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis will be subject to licensing and taxation. Since 1975, Alaskans have enjoyed personal privacy protections allowing for the possession and cultivation of small quantities of cannabis. However, state law has never before permitted a legal market for marijuana production and sales. The initiative becomes law 90 days after the election is certified, which is expected to be in late November.
In California, nearly 60 percent of voters backed Proposition 47, which defelonizes simple drug possession crimes, such as the possession of hashish. Under the measure, Californians with felony records for certain marijuana possession offenses will also be eligible to have their records expunged. Those serving time for felony drug offenses will also be able to petition for resentencing.
In the US territory Guam , 56 percent of voters decided in favor of Proposal 14A, the Compassionate Cannabis Use Act. The new law directs “the Department of Public Health and Social Services to regulate the use of marijuana as treatment for medical conditions.” The Department has up to nine months to provide rules for the territory’s medical marijuana program.
By contrast, a proposed Florida amendment (Amendment 2) fell shy of the 60 percent support threshold necessary in that state to amend the state’s constitution. Fifty-eight percent of Florida voters endorsed the measure, including supermajorities in most every age group except for those voters age 65 and older. Said NORML’s Deputy Director: “This vote wasn’t a rejection of medical marijuana in Florida, but rather an affirmation that most Floridians want patient access to cannabis therapy. NORML hopes that the Florida lawmakers will hear this message loud and clear and take action in 2015 on behalf of the will of the majority of the electorate.”
Municipal voters overwhelmingly decided in favor of depenalizing cannabis on Election Day. In Washington, DC, some 70 percent of District voters approved Initiative 71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants. Adults who engage in not-for-profit transactions of small quantities of cannabis or who possess marijuana-related paraphernalia are also no longer be subject to penalty under this act.
Unlike legalization measures in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, I-71 does not establish a regulatory framework for the regulation of a commercial cannabis market. However, members of the DC City Council are currently considering separate legislation to regulate the commercial production and sale of marijuana to adults. (Because Washington, DC does not possess statehood, all District laws are subject to Congressional approval prior to their implementation.)
Voters in several Michigan cities, including Saginaw (population 51,000), Port Huron (30,000), and Berkley (15,000) also decided in favor of local ballot measures depenalizing offenses involving the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Michigan lawmakers are anticipated to debate a statewide decriminalization proposal in 2015.
Likewise, voters in South Portland, Maine approved a municipal ordinance eliminating local penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. Voters in Lewiston, Maine rejected a similar measure.
In New Mexico, voters in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties decided in favor of advisory questions in support of the decriminalization of one ounce or less of marijuana at a city, county and state level. Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties represent a third of the state’s population.
Finally, in Massachusetts, voters in several state representative districts voted in favor of various nonbinding public policy questions calling on state officials to legalize and regulate cannabis-related commerce.
NORML PAC is endorsing Representative Alan Grayson in his campaign to be re-elected to the US Congress representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District.
“Representative Grayson is a proven leader with a track record of tenaciously advocating for causes he believes in and building the necessary coalitions required to see them approved,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In 2015, Rep. Grayson wants to be a champion for marijuana law reform at the national level and we’d strongly encourage voters in his district to vote him in for another term.”
This year, Rep. Grayson joined many of his colleagues in the House in voting in favor of amendments that would have prevented the Department of Justice and DEA from expending funds interfering with state medical marijuana programs and help clear the way for marijuana businesses to have access to banking and credit card services.