Miami Beach

Miami Beach adopts fines for pot possession and open container violations

Miami Beach commissioners passed an ordinance Wednesday to give police officers the option of issuing civil citations for possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana.
Miami Beach commissioners passed an ordinance Wednesday to give police officers the option of issuing civil citations for possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana. Miami

Marijuana and alcohol were the focus of two ordinances passed Wednesday by Miami Beach City Commissioners.

In a 5-0 vote, Miami Beach commissioners gave final approval to an ordinance that would give city police officers the option to issue a $100 civil citation for misdemeanor marijuana possession instead of making an arrest with a criminal charge. A misdemeanor amount is 20 grams or less, or about enough to fit in a sandwich bag.

A similar ordinance was passed by Miami-Dade last month, but the local version allows Miami Beach to collect the fines instead of sending the money to the county. Commissioner Jonah Wolfson was not present during this portion of the meeting, and Ed Tobin stepped away from the dais before the vote.

The Miami Beach Police Department said in a submitted memo that this will save the city about $40,000 a year in costs associated with arrests and prosecution of possession cases. The current staff will absorb the cost of processing the civil fines.

Beach residents will also be able to appeal the fine to the city’s Special Master.

At the meeting, medical marijuana activist Eric Stevens, who tried to get a similar ordinance passed a few years ago, thanked the City Commission for revisiting and passing this item.

“I think that’s something that works for the city,” he said. “It will allow them to free up time for the police.”

Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates last month 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 it isn’t for mere use,” Oates said in June.

Another approved ordinance creates stiffer fines for violating the city’s open container laws.

The fine for an individual’s first violation increased to a maximum of $250 and up to 30 days in jail. That’s up from $50 and 10 days. Repeat offenders will now get a maximum $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

Businesses also face fines under current regulations. Under the new ordinance, a business hit with four violations will have its business license revoked.

Violators can appeal to the city’s Special Master.

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