A new plan could allow Miami-Dade Police officers to fine someone caught with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana rather than place them under arrest.
Under the new ordinance, a person caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana could receive a civil citation.
It would be just like a speeding ticket, a civil citation instead of being arrested if you're in possession of less than 20 grams of pot. The proposed ordinance isn't about legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana.
"And marijuana possession is still illegal, it's not like we're saying it's legal, it's still illegal, it just, gives an officer an option as to how he handles it," said Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson. "So the officer can exercise his or her discretion and it'll cause us to not have to fill up the jails with people with misdemeanors."
Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman is sponsoring the ordinance. "Give them a civil citation that says you did something that was illegal, this constitutes a warning with a fine," she said.
It would allow cops to write tickets instead of making arrests for several offenses, including possessing drug paraphernalia, loitering, trespassing, and stealing shopping carts.
"These people do not belong locked up in our jails with a criminal record that literally obstacles future opportunities," Heyman said
Heyman said based on current arrest rates, this ordinance would save Miami-Dade taxpayers about $10 million a year. And it's not a new idea. Fifteen states, including California, New York and Mississippi, along with seven cities, including Philadelphia and Milwaukee, have similar laws.
"We're fighting strategically... marijuana right now at a misdemeanor level is not what we want to spend a whole lot of time on if we can help it," Patterson added, saying there are "much bigger fish to fry."
Commissioner Heyman's proposal still has to be discussed and passed by her colleagues on the Miami-Dade Commission, and be signed by the mayor before it becomes law.
The plan will go before the commission’s Metropolitan Services Committee next week and would be taken up by the full commission later in the summer if it passes.