Pot decriminalization petitions to be submitted on Miami Beach

Efforts to decriminalize marijuana in Miami Beach have reached a new high. Supporters of an amendment to decriminalize the adult possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana will present a petition with 9,000 signatures collected on Miami Beach to city officials at Wednesday’s commission meeting. As long as roughly 4,300 of the signatures are verified as Miami Beach voters, the petitions should trigger a city-wide vote that could potentially allow police officers to issue a $100 fine for small-time possession of marijuana.

“”It’s a great day for the marijuana legalization movement in Florida,” Ford Banister, the chairman on the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, said in a press release. “For the first time, Florida voters will soon decide a marijuana related question.”

The efforts to decriminalize the drug in Miami Beach have been underway since 2010. The Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy –a state-registered political action committee – has lobbied to soften the legal consequences for being caught with small amounts of pot in several Florida municipalities without success. But this Miami Beach effort has received heightened attention from its local celebrity backings.

Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman, the director and producer of Cocaine Cowboys and Square Grouper — a film about the South Florida marijuana trade in the 1970s and 80s — has contributed thousands and publically backed these efforts.  Spellman said the vote will be a chance for Miami Beach voters to decide whether they want their city to stop pursuing a “failed war on drugs.” “Is it in the public interest to arrest, detain and process somebody in the system for small amounts of marijuana? Is that what we want cops, prosecutors and investigators to be focusing on?” he said.

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