New County Decision May Cause Confusion and Conflicts of Law
The Miami-Dade County Commission has begun discussing a proposal which would allow local law enforcement officers the option to issue a civil citation for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Presently, possession of marijuana in Miami-Dade County is a misdemeanor. Individuals found with marijuana in their possession – even if the amount is small – may be arrested and can face several months in jail along with hundreds of dollars in fines. If passed, the measure would enable officers to issue a citation and fine an individual $100 for possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana.
Confusion Amongst the States When it Comes to Drug Policies
There is a movement sweeping through municipalities and states to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. Some states with such laws (like Colorado and Oregon) border states that have not yet passed similar laws. The situation will be the same within the borders of Florida where Miami-Dade County will have an ordinance that decriminalizes possession of marijuana (if the proposal passes) but surrounding counties do not.
This creates a confusing situation for individuals traveling between counties or between states. Possession or purchase of marijuana may be legal – or at least not a crime – in one jurisdiction but a short drive to another jurisdiction puts the possessor in danger of arrest and criminal charges. It does not matter if the possessor purchased the marijuana in a county or state in which it was legal to do so: the mere fact that the person is in possession of marijuana in a jurisdiction in which it is illegal to possess marijuana is enough to support criminal charges.
The Problem Gets Worse When the Federal Government is Involved
Despite pushes from the president and other high-level federal officials to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana, marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law. This means that a person who is investigated by the federal government and who is found to be in possession of marijuana may face federal prosecution – even if the acts occurred within the boundaries of a state, county, or municipality in which it is legal to possess marijuana. The Department of Justice announced several years ago that it will aggressively prosecute marijuana possession charges even in states and localities in which possession is legal in order to prevent:
- Distribution of marijuana to minors;
- The use of public land and/or federal land to grow or distribute marijuana; and
- Guns and violent acts that can accompany drug possession and use.
How a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Even if the proposal before the Miami-Dade County Commission passes, you should treat marijuana possession as a serious issue. If you are arrested and charged with a criminal offense by either local or federal law enforcement, you will need experienced and dedicated legal counsel on your side. Contact the law firm of Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. as soon as possible after being charged with state or federal drug crimes for assistance.