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Local community seeks to decriminalize marijuana possession

Posted on June 17, 2010 3:00 AM EST

A South Florida Community recently launched a campaign to decriminalize marijuana possession cases. A local group from Miami Beach held a news conference in front of the town hall to start a petition drive. The local group responsible for the gathering calls itself "The Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy". They are seeking to have an amendment added to the ballot in the November election. The proposal they are suggesting would make a simple marijuana possession case a civil infraction rather than a crime. Miami criminal lawyers represent clients on in daily basis in the Miami-Dade courthouse that are charged with simple possession of marijuana.

The current state of the law in Florida considers marijuana possession to be a first degree misdemeanor. Although that does not sound bad, the crime is punishable up to 364 days in the county jail. Someone convicted of simple possession can also be hit with a $1,000 fine. The proposed amendment would not charge marijuana possession as a crime, but rather as a civil infraction which is very much like a speeding or parking ticket. While it is a longshot that this law will be passed, it will certainly not apply to felony amounts of marijuana. The distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony amount is set forth in the statutes. Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor, while possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a 3rd degree felony.

The amendment would likewise not apply to marijuana sale and marijuana trafficking cases. Sale of marijuana is a third degree felony. First time offenders charged with this crime can receive pre-trial diversion, credit time served, and in egregious cases, probation. While sale of marijuana is not necessarily a serious offense, the Florida legislature has made marijuana trafficking a serious crime by attaching the possible penalty of a three year minimum mandatory state prison sentence. If an individual is charged with marijuana trafficking, they should seek the assistance of a Miami criminal defense attorney experienced in defending drug trafficking cases. Experienced lawyers are able to fully evaluate trafficking cases, take the appropriate depositions and file motions to suppress which if granted can get a defendant completely off the hook.

The Committee is lobbying for support based on the theory that criminalizing marijuana has led people to drink excess which causes a rise in DUI, DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide cases. It should be noted that individuals can be charged with DUI for being under the influence of marijuana rather than alcohol. The committee also advocates that marijuana is less addictive, less toxic and less likely to lead to violence than alcohol. In order to get this amendment on the November ballot, the Committee must secure 4,240 signatures by the end of August. We will see in November whether the law will change.

Campaign to Decriminalize Pot Comes to Miami Beach, CBS4.com, June 17, 2010.