Marijuana decriminalization is spreading across Florida, with more and more municipalities reforming marijuana laws at the local level. Arresting people for marijuana possession is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, and more local governments in Florida are realizing that. Orlando is the latest city in Florida to take up the issue. As luck would have it, I am currently in Orlando celebrating my birthday (yesterday). There is a final Orlando City Council vote on marijuana decriminalization tonight, and I may just have to swing by to see the vote occur live. Per WFTV:
Mayor Buddy Dyer announced the plan last week; instead of being arrested, the first violation would mean a $50 fine.
Currently, possessing less than 20 grams of pot is a criminal misdemeanor and carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
But under the proposed change, the penalties would increase with repeated violations; a second violation doubles the fine, while a court appearance is required on a third offense.
I don’t know exactly how much an arrest costs in Orlando, but I have seen estimates in other areas at between $1,200 and $1,700 per arrest for marijuana. For an officer to write a ticket, and to have a government employee process it, it costs just $20. That’s how cities like Philadelphia saved over one million dollars in the first year that decriminalization took effect there. That’s one million more dollars that can go to parks and schools, and that many more officer hours that can be spent fighting real crime. Hopefully Orlando votes to make a similar public policy change.