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Orlando Considers “Decriminalizing” Small Amounts Of Marijuana

The Orlando City Council Monday will consider decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposed ordinance would give police officers the option to issue a city code violation over arresting someone with 20 grams of marijuana or less.

The proposed ordinance would fine people $50 for a first offense of the code violation, $100 for the second offense. Orlando Police Chief John Mina says officers would still have the discretion to make an arrest, as they do now.

“Truly I think the spirit of this is so that 18- or 19-year-old student who has no criminal history, has never been in trouble with the law and makes that mistake of – let’s face it – illegal behavior of possessing cannabis, we have an option to give that person a code violation and not burden them with a criminal history, arrest and everything that comes with that,” said Mina.

Currently, Mina says, officers sometimes just confiscate the drugs and give verbal warnings.

Meanwhile, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs isn’t sold on the idea. She wants the county’s Public Safety Coordinating Council to do more research, including looking at exactly what circumstances would call for a citation versus arrest. She wants a more comprehensive approach among local jurisdictions versus a piecemeal approach.

“It’s not up to local government to decriminalize, it’s not within our jurisdiction,” said Jacobs.

Chief Mina says this ordinance will not conflict with state law which says cannabis possession is a misdemeanor because officers would still have authority to arrest people. He prefers the word “de-prioritization” over “decriminalization.” He wants officers to focus on more serious crimes.

The city council won’t take a final vote until after two public hearings on the matter.


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