In a rather unexpected turn of events, one Democratic representative from Florida filed a bill that would decriminalize marijuana.
While it is a good step forward, the move seems politically jarring. Florida is not exactly a cannabis-friendly state, dragging its feet to role out medical marijuana long after it was legalized. Even then the rules are very restrictive.
With this in mind, the very idea of loosening laws around recreational use seems out of reach for the time being. But according to ABC Action News, Democratic Rep. Shervin Jones did just that. His aim is to make Florida the 27th state to decriminalize the drug.
Also known as HB-25, the bill puts forward the usual reforms that come with decriminalization. If enacted, it will at least place a Band-Aid on the issues surrounding prohibition.
Like all proposals of its type, the Florida marijuana decriminalization bill prevent a lot of marijuana convictions. This is good news, given that Florida’s current marijuana laws are rather harsh, as described by ABC Action News:
“Under Florida law, possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis is a first-degree misdemeanor with penalties of up to one-year in jail or one-year probation and a $1,000 dollar fine. Other consequences result in taking your driver’s license away for a year.”
In his bill, Rep. Jones proposes that anyone caught with 20 grams or less is to receive much less impactful consequences, such as less jail time, lower fines and avoiding a criminal record.
Jones’s law also covers edibles. Any product containing less than 600mg of THC – a substantial amount – will not face the same serious prosecution outlined under current law.
The bill states that possessing marijuana within these limits will no longer be considered a first degree misdemeanour, but rather a “non-criminal violation.”
Youth, however, will receive a little less leniency, instituting a one-strike approach:
“The proposal also specifies that juveniles arrested for possession of certain amounts of cannabis would be eligible for civil citation or pre-arrest diversion programs on their first offense.”
In many states, having a criminal record can be a professional death sentence – Florida being one of those places. The nature and severity of the crime has no bearing on how employers and the law view these records.
It is not uncommon for a criminal record to impede a person’s job prospects, but Florida takes it much further. Government jobs are impossible to obtain at any level. Additionally, a criminal record could affect the chances of acceptance into a college and remove eligibility for public housing.
The cruel irony is that, despite having paid their debt to society, former criminals will find it much harder to obtain work or housing, often forcing them to resort to other measures to supplement their income.
It is especially sad if non-violent cannabis offenders are on the receiving end of these penalties.
WeedAdvisor’s Support for Decriminalization
As we mentioned in the past, decriminalization is not the best solution. However, it makes an effective consolation prize to those who see that prohibition is working, but are too skittish to consider legalization.
Decriminalization does at least address some of the issues associated with prohibition, but it is not a decisive solution.
Hopefully, Florida will eventually open itself to legal cannabis and enable us to form strong industry partnerships.