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Orlando eases punishments for possessing small quantities of marijuana

Published On: 05-26-2016 in Category: Addiction


Orlando became the first city in Central Florida to decriminalize carrying small amounts of marijuana by passing an ordinance in May 2016. The ordinance will allow city police officers to use citations rather than directly arresting an individual carrying 20 grams or less of the drug.

The ordinance, to be effective from October 2016, will levy a fine of $100 for the first-time offender and $200 for the second-time offender. However, if a person is caught committing an offense for the third time, he/she will have to make a mandatory court appearance and pay a penalty of as high as $500.

The ordinance also provides for a diversionary program similar to the one followed in criminal courts. This means that the people who have been caught will have to undergo eight hours of community service or substance use education instead of paying the fine. Assistant City Attorney Kyle Shephard said that the revenue gathered from the fine will be used to fund substance-use education.

David Siegel to financially support diversion program

Mayor Buddy Dyer said that timeshare mogul David Siegel has agreed to provide funds for the diversion program. Siegel lost his daughter to prescription drug abuse in June 2015 and started his own fight against substance use. Siegel, however, had mixed views about the ordinance. He believed that the fine of $100 is a meager amount, and people will opt to pay the fine rather than seeking treatment.

Sigel said, “I would prefer (it) to be a much stiffer fine. These kids are walking around with a lot of money in their pockets.” After his daughter’s death, Siegel studied the issue of substance use and concluded that marijuana is a gateway drug for many people, especially the youth. He felt that there is a strong need to spread the word among today’s younger generation, asking them to avoid the drug due to its detrimental effects.

Decriminalization will provide marijuana users a second chance

Mayor Dyer said that the ordinance will give people a chance to kick the habit of marijuana use and seek treatment. “With an arrest record, it becomes more challenging for them to get a job, more challenging to join the military and more challenging to get financial aid,” he said.

Moreover, arresting people for minor possession of marijuana can waste the time of police and courts, and brand small-time offenders as criminals, especially minors and young people, affecting their future.

Orlando thus joined many other cities and counties across the state to pass an ordinance for marijuana use. Though the ordinance generated a lot of controversy as many people opposed the initiative, it saw the light of the day when the City Council approved it with a 4-3 vote.

Way to an addiction-free future

According to Orlando Police chief John Mina, nearly 234 people were arrested for the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2015. Supporting the arrests, he referred to the move as “de-prioritization” of marijuana and not “decriminalization” because possessing marijuana is still illegal under state and federal law.

If your or your loved one is battling an addiction to marijuana or other drugs, call the Orlando Drug Abuse and Rehab Center for recovery options. Our certified representatives can help you get the best addiction treatment program suiting your needs. Chat online or call our 24/7 helpline at 407-545-6829 for more information.

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