Monday, December 14, 2015


Many of the states and major cities in America have decriminalized marijuana with no backlash of an uptick in crime. Now major cities and counties in Florida are finally taking notice by pushing for their own decriminalization in an effort to focus law enforcement on more serious drug and violent crime offenses. But for many areas in the State of Florida avoiding harsh penalties for possession of even small amounts of marijuana is difficult. Yet resources are being wasted in a state that recently admitted that there were literally thousands of backlogged rape kits which the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has failed to test. Decriminalizing marijuana would seem to be an effective way for the state, cities and counties of Florida to better utilize limited resources.

Just give me the damn marijuana ticket, officer!
In Florida Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties have successfully decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. Instead of branding countless otherwise law abiding citizens as criminals these counties fine those caught with small quantities of marijuana. Councilmen in St. Petersburg are pushing their city attorneys to draft an effective ordinance transitioning toward fines rather than criminal sanctions for possession of marijuana in weights of 20 grams or less within the city limits.

Will this progressive city action have enough leverage to force Pinellas county do something as well? The Pinellas County Sheriff seems to be a stumbling block against reasonable change. For example, after initially saying he was for medical marijuana, he came out forcefully against the actual medical marijuana constitutional amendment by implying that illegal pot and other substances would flood the safe streets of Pinellas if it passed. Clearly, he prefers having more arrests as higher stats from misdemeanor and felony marijuana arrests fuel his arguments for ever greater funding even at a time when studies show that violent crime is down in Pinellas County. The Pinellas county commission should direct more police funding toward reducing violent crime or support a capable sheriff who will.

Ultimately it's a question of fairness. Do we really want nosey officers smelling for marijuana to avoid procuring necessary and proper search warrants? Is it fair that a college student in Miami with a small amount of marijuana is treated differently than a similar student in Largo or Clearwater? Is it fair to spend limited law enforcement and prosecutorial funds on a nonviolent offense that's legal in over half the country? Is it fair to make rape victims wait for justice because the State of Florida does not have enough money to fund thousands of backlogged rape kits?

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