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Broward County commissioners give initial approval to marijuana ordinance

Public hearing scheduled for Nov. 10

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(Courtesy: Broward County)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County commissioners granted preliminary approval this week to a new marijuana ordinance that could save those caught with small amounts of marijuana from going to jail. 

Under the proposed ordinance, which is similar to that in Miami-Dade County and Key West, police officers will have the option of issuing a $100 civil citation to someone caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana instead of filing a misdemeanor criminal charge against that person.

Officers would issue a $250 citation for repeat violations.

"We're not condoning the use of marijuana. We're not encouraging it," said Vice Mayor Marty Kiar, who brought the issue forward. "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." 

The fine could be waived if the offender chooses to attend a county-approved community service program.

"I am for allowing the option of a civil citation, including treatment," said Commissioner Chip LaMarca. "I just want to make sure that we're very careful that we're not allowing other drugs to come into the process because they look like something else."

Under the ordinance, civil citations would not be given if someone is found with marijuana in conjunction with other crimes, such as driving under the influence.

Florida law currently makes possession of 20 grans or less of marijuana a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail term of one year and a $1,000 fine.

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Nov. 10.

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