Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith is urging Florida lawmakers to decriminalize marijuana by passing HB 1203 and SB 1602. In 2017, there were 46,045 arrests for misdemeanor drug offenses, with 91.5% being for marijuana possession. The state has seen an increase in senior citizen marijuana possession arrests.
The current penalty is a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail, according to Orlando Political Observer. Smith says that the criminalization of marijuana disproportionately affects communities of color, with the majority of marijuana possession arrests in 2015 being African American persons.
Representative Smith said, “I think there’s no question that our criminal justice system is broken and in need of serious reforms. While Florida’s mismanaged prisons continue to overflow and become an even larger burden to taxpayers, our state legislature has not offered enough solutions. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, in 2017, 42,153 people in Florida were arrested for misdemeanor cannabis possession, contributing to 91.5% of total arrests for misdemeanor drug possession. As more and more people realize that cannabis is not the gateway drug that many have falsely alleged, we’re actually seeing cannabis arrests in Florida are on the rise. We believe as an overwhelming number of Floridians do, no one should be thrown in jail or have their lives ruined simply for smoking weed. This is not a radical idea.”
Fourteen cities and counties throughout Florida have implemented new policies, since June 2015, decriminalizing marijuana possession in some degree. Passage of HB 1203 would extend decriminalization statewide.