Decriminalization is spreading throughout Florida at a rapid pace as Flagler County becomes to next city to open the discussion. This week, the Public Safety Coordinating Council brought law enforcement, judicial and social agencies, a couple of judges and other elected officials together to discuss the possibility of creating a decriminalization ordinance that would lessen the harm of a first time marijuana offense.
The meeting wound up bringing up more questions than it managed to answer – everyone seems to agree that some sort of decriminalization policy is the way to go. But, no one can quite agree on how much marijuana should be decriminalized or how many offenses they are allowed to get away with just a fine? Should they implement a program requiring drug treatment as well as the fine?
In hopes of getting a good idea on how to move forward, they met via Skype with Bertha Henry, the Broward County Administrator who works closely on that county’s new decriminalization policy.
“What we heard today,” Mayor Jon Netts, who attended the two-hour meeting, said, “is that Broward County jumped in with both feet and had not given it sufficient thought. This requires a tremendous amount of understanding of implications. The law of unintended consequences, which is always my theme. Conceptually it’s a great idea. I don’t believe marijuana is a gateway drug. I disagree with Jack on that one.” (Jack Carrall, a citizen who addressed the council and a former narcotics police officer, made the gateway drug argument.) “Alcohol is a gateway drug, and it never took me any further.”
A first draft of the ordinance was written during this meeting – however, it is only meant to circulate and generate opinions and help to form a much stronger ordinance in the end. Things that are up for debate still include what amount of marijuana would be considered for a citation – most cities and counties have chosen 20 grams or less, but some oppose it wishing to reduce the number to 7 grams.
Even though nothing was decided during this meeting, opening the door to conversation is the first step – and the good intentions are there from just about everyone. After the most recent polls it is not surprising that so many Florida cities and counties are finally saying enough is enough and doing what they can to help reform. Most recently out of just over 1000 voters 56% of Floridians approve legalizing marijuana for recreational use and 80% approve medical marijuana when asked specifically about Amendment 2.
Things are finally catching up here in the Sunshine State – it’s good to see. As more and more cities and counties decriminalize cannabis, we step closer and closer to ending prohibition.