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State representative introduces bill decriminalizing marijuana

People who are in Florida and who are carrying 20 grams or less of marijuana may no longer be taken into custody if a house bill is successful. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith has filed legislation in an effort to decriminalize marijuana possession and increase people's ability to access cannabis for medical reasons.

Possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana would be reclassified as a noncriminal civil violation. For adults, penalties would be either a fine under $100 or 15 hours of community service. For juveniles, there would be a mandatory drug awareness program, community service, or both.

Orlando and a number of other Florida jurisdictions already have ordinances in place that allow police to give out civil citations for marijuana possession. In Orlando, there have been more than 100 citations since the law's enactment in October 2016. Orlando's police chief stated that he did not think detaining people for possession of marijuana led to crime reduction and safer neighborhoods. In 2016, around 39,700 people were taken into custody for marijuana possession in Florida.

The clerk of court would collect civil fines. Those fines would be divided between the county or municipality and the Grants and Donations Trust Fund of the Department of Children and Families or the County Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Trust Fund. State Sen. Randolph Bracy is also expected to introduce a Senate companion bill.

People who are facing drug charges should not assume that because it is for small amounts that it is not serious. An attorney who has drug defense experience can review the circumstances to see what kind of strategy can be used to counter the allegations.

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