The Orlando City Council voted Monday to pass an ordinance that will decriminalize the possession of marijuana.
The measure was approved by a 4-3 vote, similar to the vote on the first reading last month.
The law, which will put into effect in October, would give Orlando police officers to give a $100 citation to individuals possessing 20 grams of marijuana or less (roughly two-thirds of an ounce) rather than make an arrest. A second offense would be punishable with a $200 fine, and a third would result in a mandatory court appearance.
The original proposal would have given offenders a $50 fine.
While those who oppose the ordinance say that decriminalization sends the wrong message to young people, Mayor Buddy Dyer says that issuing fines instead of arresting people would hold the offender accountable without giving them a lifelong criminal record. Advocates also say that that decriminalization would allow officers to divert their resources to more serious crimes.
But as those who use marijuana can now breathe easier now that they are less likely to face arrest, students at UCF will need to continue to wait for a law that would legalize the drug in the state of Florida. Not only is UCF not part of the City of Orlando, but it abides by state statutes, which means that not even an Orange County law decriminalizing marijuana would apply.
“Either way, UCFPD does not typically make physical arrests for small amounts of marijuana possession,” Courtney Gilmartin, the public information officer of the UCF Police Department, said in an e-mail to Knight News. “Each interaction is at the discretion of the responding officer, but in most cases that involve a small amount of marijuana and no other criminal offense, officers will issue a Student Affairs Referral (Student Conduct) and a Notice to Appear (written arrest).”
Still, the newly passed ordinance is part of a statewide move to decriminalize marijuana and even legalize it at least for medical purposes, as one proposed amendment aims to achieve this year. Volusia and Miami-Dade counties have recently passed similar measures, as well as the City of Tampa.
Orlando Sheriff Jerry Demings, according to News 13, has called on Orange County to pass a decriminalization law while voicing his support to city commissioners.