[vc_empty_space height=”13vw”]As more and more states follow the lead of Colorado to decriminalize marijuana, many are left wondering why Florida has lagged so far behind. With arrests soaring and jails creaking under the weight of overcrowding, it’s important to wonder: should Miami decriminalize weed?
Marijuana Citations in Miami are a New Phenomenon
This may come as a surprise to many, but the issuing of citations by the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) is a new occurrence. Civil citations for possession of marijuana were signed into law by Miami civic leaders in 2015. Despite this legislation, an investigation conducted by the Miami New Times found that arrests for possession had risen considerably – especially for minorities.
Issuances of Marijuana Citations Are Racially Biased
In fact, MDPD only began issuing the citations in earnest this year. According to the New Times, MDPD Chief Jorge Colina said his force would implement the policy, issuing citations to those found with small amounts of marijuana in the first and second instances. Colina went on to argue that MDPD was going above and beyond other forces in Miami-Dade with regards to their handling of marijuana possession incidents. The figures, however, suggest otherwise.
According to data from the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), citations for marijuana possession are often handled on racially divided lines. Of the 10,078 citations handed out from July 2015 to July 2018, 72 percent – or 7,268 citations – were given to whites, while the other 28-percent were given to minorities. In the same period, the New Times reports that tens- of thousands of arrests have been made for marijuana possession – usually of minorities – with those charged being saddled needlessly with a criminal record and probation. In the case of immigrants, Miami-based radio station WLRN found that immigrants arrested for marijuana possession faced deportation.
So, Should Miami Decriminalize Weed?
Citations are a great step forward for Miami when it comes to the decriminalization, but unfortunately, it is not enough. For a full decriminalization of weed, the arrests simply need to stop. Unfortunately, as the above figures indicate, that isn’t happening anytime soon. Much of this has been blamed on the policy of the Trump administration of threatening to withhold funding for cities which are viewed as “sanctuary cities.”
Those cities often protect immigrants facing deportation from federal arrests – something President Trump has expressed his discontentment with time. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been particularly attacked for the perception that he has bowed to the administration under pressure of a funding cut.
Other major hang-ups with regards to decriminalization include the city banning medical marijuana dispensaries within the city, as they argue that the drug is still illegal under federal law and the nuances of the citation legislation. According to some counselors, those charged with trespassing, loitering or prowling – all offenses covered under citations – should be arrested instead, as these are serious crimes.
When it comes to marijuana decriminalization, it appears that the wheels of justice are turning – albeit very slowly. The best thing you can do is to keep yourself informed about the laws regarding marijuana possession in Miami-Dade. But, if you find yourself arrested for marijuana or any other drug, you need to contact an experienced Miami defense attorney immediately.
Chad Piotrowski has an extensive background in aggressively defending his clients from charges ranging from marijuana possession to armed drug trafficking and murder. A former prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, Chad Piotrowski has the unique ability to anticipate prosecution strategies to help build a solid defense to help obtain the best possible outcome for his clients.