Miami Beach Will Not Decriminalize Marijuana – For Now

The Miami Beach City Commission has declined to place the issue of decriminalizing marijuana on the November ballot. Even so the issue could, in the future, force a special election.

The Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy is spearheading the efforts. They collected more than 9,000 signatures on a petition in support of an ordinance to decriminalize the adult possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana in Miami Beach.

They point out that when Philadelphia decriminalized marijuana last year it saved the city more than $2 million.

“I believe the city of Miami Beach has the right to decriminalize marijuana,” said Norm Kent, lawyer and board member of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. Kent is also the publisher of SFGN.

However, Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith, disagrees and told the Miami Herald that he’s skeptical of the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance.

If about 4,300 of the signatures are verified and the city attorney and city commission deem the ordinance constitutional the issue would then go to a citywide vote. Police officers would then issue $100 fines instead of making arrests.

– Article originally from South Florida Gay News.

Miami Beach Pot Petition Presented to Commission, But Vote Could Take Awhile

Tim Elfrink, Miami New Times

A triumphant group of pot activists presented the Miami Beach Commission yesterday with more than 9,000 signatures in favor of decriminalizing small amounts of weed — but damned if city attorney Jose Smith didn’t do his best to harsh their mellow.

Smith, despite admitting he hadn’t actually read the petition, questioned its constitutionality. Beach commissioners, meanwhile, declined to put the measure on a ballot this fall. Organizer Ford Banister tells Riptide he’s not worried, though. “It will be on the ballot in Miami Beach,” he says. “This will be the first city in Florida with a chance to vote to decriminalize marijuana.”

The petition would change the city’s charter to give cops the discretion to issue $100 fines for small amounts of pot rather than filing criminal charges. Dozens of states have considered similar measures, and Massachusetts passed one in 2008.

Assuming at least 4,300 of the signatures gathered by Banister’s group, Sensible Florida, pass muster, the measure should head to a vote on the Beach.

Unfortunately, Banister says, there’s likely to be quite a bit of legal wrangling first over the wording of the measure. If there’s a disagreement with city clerks, a circuit court judge could rule on the issue.

Still, the organizer says Smith was wrong to question the measure’s constitutionality. “He admitted he hasn’t seen the petition at all,” Banister said. “He was confused on the issues.”

The measure seems unlikely to end up on this fall’s municipal ballot, but Banister says he expects it to go to a vote sometime in the next 12 months.

– Article originally from Miami New Times.