On Tuesday, Broward County approved an ordinance that will allow law enforcement to reduce the penalty for pot possession — in some cases — to a ticket. Commissioners came to a unanimous decision to fine people $100 for possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana. Second offenses would be $250, and third offenses would be $500. After three fines, possession would be considered a crime.
The vote allows for cops to treat marijuana as a misdemeanor crime in cases as they see fit. A person could still be arrested for possessing even a small amount of pot. but discretion will remain with law enforcement on a case-by-case basis. Earlier this year, Miami-Dade County commissioners passed a similar ordinance that was estimated to save the city about $40,000 a year.
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The gist of the new ordinance is that it allows the county to keep small-time pot smokers out of jail and keeps convictions off their future job applications. Rather than tying up the legal system with a courtroom full of people who got caught smoking a joint, police officers now have the option of simply writing them a citation and sending them home.
"We're not condoning the use of marijuana. We're not encouraging it," said Vice Mayor Marty Kiar, who brought the issue forward, to Channel 10.
"The reason this is important is because an arrest can ruin people's lives. The vast majority aren't convicted, yet once arrested a person can lose their job, be denied housing, [and] lose their income. Many people who are arrested are working hard to make ends meet, and a civil citation won't derail their lives.
"I believe that giving police officers the ability to issue civil citations to folks will give people another chance in life," said Kiar.