An ordinance proposed by the Miami-Dade Police Department, if passed, would allow officers to issue civil citations that carry a $100 fine for possessing small amounts of marijuana rather than making a physical arrest.
Under the new ordinance, a person caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana could receive a civil citation, based on the investigating officer’s discretion in the matter. It would be similar to a speeding ticket, where the suspect would receive a civil citation instead of being arrested.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, the sponsor of the proposed measure, said based on current arrest rates, this ordinance would save Miami-Dade taxpayers about $10 million a year. “Give them a civil citation that says you did something that was illegal, this constitutes a warning with a fine,” Heyman told NBC 6.
These people do not belong locked up in our jails with a criminal record that literally obstacles future opportunities. -Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman
Police Director J.D. Patterson admitted that it was no longer worth expending valuable resources and manpower on marijuana users. “We’re fighting strategically… marijuana right now at a misdemeanor level is not what we want to spend a whole lot of time on if we can help it,” Patterson said, adding that there are “much bigger fish to fry.”
The plan will go before the commission’s Metropolitan Services Committee next week and would be taken up by the full commission later in the summer if it passes. In addition to marijuana, officers will also be able to write citations for other petty offenses, such as possessing drug paraphernalia, loitering, trespassing, and stealing shopping carts.