Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says the proposed measure
to decriminalize the possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana gives police officers the option to issue civil citations and helps "protect the futures of our young people."
Dyer spoke with Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Korey Wheeler of Organize Now about the proposed ordinance
, which the City Council will consider at its next meeting on April 18. If approved, the measure would make possessing small amounts of pot a violation of city code and allow officers to issue civil citations instead of arresting people, with the civil penalties ranging from a $50 to a mandated court hearing depending on how many times a person has been cited.
Screencap of Orlando's proposed civil penalties via City of Orlando
"This third option is not as harsh an arrest, which can result in jail time and a lifelong criminal record, but it still holds the offender responsible for their behaviors," Dyer says. When asked about the legalization of recreational marijuana, Dyer says he's not talking a position, calling it a state issue.
Mina says the citation option allows officers to focus on more serious offenses, though he estimates the program would be applicable to a few hundred people. People committing other crimes aside from possessing less than 20 grams will not be eligible for a citation. Mina adds that juveniles will be eligible for these types of citations as well.
"It's a more official way of giving a person a second chance," Mina says.
Wheeler says Organize Now collected thousands of petitions around the city asking for the decriminalization of non-violent misdemeanor offenses like the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but also laws that punish sleeping or loitering in a park.
"Today is proof that when a group of passionate people come together to organize, change is possible,” he tells the crowd.
Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton issued a statement on the possibility of Orlando adopting the ordinance.
"Our office will always exercise due diligence when reviewing cases and filing appropriate charges," Ashton says. "But if no case is referred to our office, we have little to consider. We have no intention of rounding up offenders based on civil citations issued by OPD."