Hallandale Beach to Hold First Vote on Relaxing Marijuana Laws

As it stands, anyone in Hallandale Beach caught with 20 grams of pot or less is facing one year in the slammer, maximum. But that could all change starting tonight.

After mulling over whether to have police issue fines rather than place under arrest anyone caught with a small amount of marijuana, Hallandale Beach commissioners are expected to vote on the measure during Wednesday night's meeting. The vote, which will be the first, will decide if the city will move forward with a measure that would make marijuana possession a civil offense rather than a criminal one. 

The measure was brought up by commissioner Keith London in June and was supported by other commissioners. If it passes, Hallandale Beach will be the first city in Broward County to move forward with such a measure. In July, Miami-Dade passed a measure that will allow Miami cops the option to issue a citation to anyone caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana. The person cited will also have to pay a $100 fine rather than face jail time or get a personal record.

Last month, Broward County Commissioner Martin Kiar proposed a similar measure to the one passed in Miami, telling New Times the idea stems from people's lives being derailed over being caught with a small amount of pot. 

"When people apply for jobs or try to buy a home, they have to answer that question: 'Have you ever been convicted of a crime?'" Kiar says. "And so many good people's lives have been ruined because they were arrested [for marijuana]."

Kiar agrees, telling his fellow commissioners in June that if the measure is good enough for Miami Beach, then it's good enough for Hallandale.

If passed, Kiar's measure would be exactly the same as Miami-Dade's, with Hallandale Beach Police having the option of issuing someone a misdemeanor if they're busted with 20 grams or less. 

Measures like these come with complications, however. Specifically, how each individual is treated or fined if caught.

When the measure was first brought up, Hallandale Beach Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy expressed concern over how someone with a criminal record might be fined compared to someone without a record. Moreover, there are also concerns that people in higher-income areas could get preferential treatment over those who live in lower-income areas. Broward commissioners have expressed wanting to make sure the measure covers everyone equally.

Still, a measure like this one could help unclog the local jails and ease tax burdens on citizens.

Tonight's vote in Hallandale Beach is an initial formal vote. Broward Commissioners are expected to take up Kiar's measure when they return to work next Tuesday. 
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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph