The Orlando City Council took a final vote yesterday on marijuana decriminalization, and I’m happy to say, the vote was favorable. Decriminalization in Orlando took a different form than originally proposed, but it was still a great step in the right direction. Orlando follows in the footsteps of other municipalities in Florida that have decided to decriminalize marijuana. Per the Orlando Sentinel:
The ordinance would give Orlando officers the option to issue citations, akin to a ticket, rather than make arrests. Despite his reservations, Stuart voted yes both times, but argued the originally proposed $50 fine for first offenders was too low.
The revised version of the ordinance calls for a $100 fine for first-time offenders and a $200 fine for a second offense. Any subsequent offenses would require a court appearance, as well as a possible fine as high as $500.
Also new: The city plans to create a diversion program, similar to the one that exists in criminal courts, which would allow those ticketed to opt for eight hours of community service or substance-abuse education, rather than a fine.
The proposal is scheduled to take effect on October 1. I’ll be curious to see how many people choose the diversion program over the fine. Drug rehab companies and their supporters will be quick to offer up stats as to how many of their customers are there for marijuana. However, with so many people being required to choose diversion/treatment in most areas, those stats are always biased. I have to assume if people are facing a $100 fine versus mandatory diversion, more people will just pay the fine rather than being subjected to frequent drug testing and ‘stoner shaming.’ I guess we will have to wait and see.