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Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County consider citations in lieu of arrests for marijuana possession

Proposal would result in police citation for those caught with less than 20 grams

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Miami Beach leaders are considering a proposed city ordinance that would result in citations for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

"We don't want marijuana smoking on the streets. That's still illegal," Mayor Philip Levine told Local 10 News after a city commission meeting Wednesday. "It's illegal to distribute or sell any marijuana or anything like that. But if someone's caught with under 20 grams, we don't want to ruin their lives."

The proposed ordinance would result in police issuing citations -- what amounts to a civil infraction -- for those caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana in their possession.

The suspects would be issued a $100 fine or community service.

Levine cited the cost to the Miami Beach Police Department associated with marijuana arrests as a reason for the proposed ordinance.

"We want to focus our resources on fighting serious crime," Levine said.

RELATED: State-by-state look at marijuana laws

Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates said the result would be "probably about 400 arrests a year where we're more likely to issue the civil citation."

"However, if you're using or smoking marijuana, if you're smoking marijuana in public, we're going to charge you," Oates said. "If you have marijuana on your possession, you're driving an automobile, we're still going to charge you."

A similar proposal is being considered by Miami-Dade County commissioners.

"We have thousands and thousands of people brought into the criminal justice system for nonviolent misdemeanors that destroy their options for the future," Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman said.

The Miami-Dade County commission will vote on the ordinance June 30.

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