Carrying a small amount of marijuana in Miami Beach may soon lead to a fine instead of an arrest under a proposed city ordinance.
Mirroring a move being considered at Miami-Dade County and backed by police leadership, the Beach’s City Commission will consider an ordinance making possession of a misdemeanor amount of pot — 20 grams or less — a civil offense punishable with a $100 fine.
Mayor Philip Levine is sponsoring the change that commissioners will weigh at Wednesday’s City Commission meeting.
“We truly don’t want to waste our police resources on these type of minor offenses, and we also don’t want to waste our taxpayers money on the cost of arrests and prosecution of these type of offenses,” he said Friday,
Under the proposed rule, officers have the option to give someone possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana a $100 citation. That’s about two-thirds of an ounce, or enough pot to fit in a sandwich bag.
The person could pay the fine or request an administrative hearing before the city’s special master to appeal the fine. The option to issue a fine does not apply if the charge is tied to other crimes like domestic violence, driving under the influence or any other felony.
Currently, misdemeanor marijuana possession carries a possible maximum one-year jail sentence. Police officers currently have the option to not arrest someone with a minor amount of pot, but the person would still be required to appear in criminal court.
The county ordinance under consideration differs in that it decriminalizes a number of different minor offenses in addition to misdemeanor marijuana possession, like stealing shopping carts and loitering. Miami Beach could choose to be bound by the county ordinance, but it would have to adopt the county’s version. The Beach plan only addresses marijuana, and it creates an appeals process for people who get cited.