Miami Beach

Miami Beach Commission talks marijuana, transportation, education

Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates displayed these two bags of oregano at Wednesday’s City Commission meeting to illustrated what 20 grams of marijuana looks like. He said he’d tell cops to arrest and criminally charge a person found with a bag like the one on the left, which implies an intent to sell. In the department’s view, the bag on the right implies personal use.
Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates displayed these two bags of oregano at Wednesday’s City Commission meeting to illustrated what 20 grams of marijuana looks like. He said he’d tell cops to arrest and criminally charge a person found with a bag like the one on the left, which implies an intent to sell. In the department’s view, the bag on the right implies personal use. Miami Herald Staff

Miami Beach City Commissioners met Wednesday and discussed the details of a new ordinance decriminalizing marijuana before giving it initial approval in a unanimous vote.

The commission also talked about transportation issues, possible funding for voluntary pre-K and plans for an accessible beach and adaptive playground in North Beach.

The main item

As a similar county ordinance cleared a committee Wednesday, Beach commissioners unanimously supported an ordinance that would give city cops the option to issue a $100 civil citation for misdemeanor marijuana possession instead of making and arrest with a criminal charge. The commission will consider final approval July 8.

The county ordinance would apply to all Miami-Dade cities, but the local ordinance would allow Miami Beach to collect the fines instead of sending the money to the county, according to a county attorney.

A few commissioners wanted to make sure the change wouldn’t lead to unfettered pot smoking in the streets. That wouldn’t happen, according to the Miami Beach Police Department, even if the shift might give the impression that the Beach is more permissive of marijuana use.

Police Chief Dan Oates said he would instruct cops to continue arresting and criminally charging people openly smoking, as well as for possession in a car, in connection with another crime, and if the minor amount is packaged in a way that indicates it’s going to be sold — like a bunch of dime bags in a bigger bag.

“That, to me, is an indicator that isn’t for mere use,” Oates said.

Other business

▪ VPK funding: A majority of the commission voted down a proposal from Commissioner Michael Grieco to use city money to pay for voluntary pre-K (VPK) for 55 Miami Beach children who are were not chosen for the VPK program at Miami-Dade Public Schools because of limited funding.

The majority of commissioners said they opposed the measure because the $253,000 commitment could prove too much in future budgets, as well as take pressure off the state to increase future funding. Deede Weithorn, Jonah Wolfson, Philip Levine and Joy Malakoff voting against it and Grieco, and Micky Steinberg and Ed Tobin voted in favor.

Tobin argued that if the city is willing to make multi-million dollar commitments to a city-wide trolley system — mass transit is traditionally a county issue — then it should be able to do the same for education.

▪ Allison Park: Plans for an accessible beach and adaptive playground in North Beach have moved a step closer to reality. The city agreed to continue working with the Sabrina Cohen Foundation to turn land at Allison Park into a beach and playground facilities that will accommodate people with disabilities and kids with special needs. The city will develop an agreement that would allow the foundation to build and operate the facility on public land.

▪ Transportation jurisdiction: Commissioners also agreed to work with other Miami-Dade cities to get jurisdiction over transportation matters on city-owned roads. The Beach wants to be able to determine its own needs in terms of stop signs and signalization on local streets, not county or state thoroughfares.

They said it

During a public comment period, local activist Stanley Shapiro asked Mayor Philip Levine if he plans on running for mayor this fall. As of now, he has not filed to run, and rumor abound that he may be interested in seeking higher public office.

His response: “I am definitely going to run, most likely, I think so.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine dodges a question from activist Stanley Shapiro about whether he's running for mayor again this year. Video by Joey Flechas

You said it

The next meeting

▪ When: July 8 at 8:30 a.m.

▪ Where: 1700 Convention Center Dr.

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