Democratic state Rep. Shervin Jones from Broward County wants to see criminal penalties removed for anyone found in possession of up to 20g of marijuana. The law would also cover edibles and concentrates containing up to 600mg of THC.
It has been filed for the 2020 legislative session, which begins in January. Jones is running for the Senate next year and he has vowed to fight for this bill to become law while campaigning to replace term-limited Sen. Oscar Braynon.
The legislature in Florida is dominated by Republicans, so it might be a long shot, but Jones pledged to battled for equity in the justice system.
“After being charged with possession, many Floridians feel the lasting impact as their student financial aid, employment opportunities, housing eligibility, or immigration status are adversely affected,” said Jones in a statement.
He added that his bill would go some way towards restoring the state’s “broken” justice system, which he feels has disproportionately impacted communities of colour for far too long.
If successful, the bill would amend section 893.13 of the Florida Statutes by educing penalties for cannabis possession. It would also ensure that juvenile violators are eligible for civil citation or pre-arrest diversion programs.
Florida legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and it has a thriving industry, with companies like Trulieve and Liberty Health rapidly expanding their retail estates. However, adult-use marijuana possession remains illegal.
Anyone found with less than 20g of cannabis is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanour, which carries penalties of up to a year behind bars and a fine of $1,000. Anyone convicted of marijuana possession can also have their driver’s licenses taken away for a year, while they become ineligible for a government job and public housing, and they can often struggle to gain employment or a place at college.
Jones wants to see cannabis possession become a noncriminal violation as opposed to a misdemeanour, which would reduce these penalties and help many Floridians gain access to employment, housing, and education.
Hawaii and New York decriminalized marijuana possession last month, and Florida could become the 27th state to do so in 2020 if Jones is successful. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University suggested 61% of Florida voters are in favour of allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.