ORLANDO, Fla. – The proposed new ordinance that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana in Orlando passed its first reading in front of the Orlando City Commission on Monday.
Under the new proposal, anyone found with 20 grams of the drug or less would not be arrested if it was a first offense. Instead, they would only get a ticket, starting at $50.
The ordinance passed the City Council first reading by a 4-3 vote.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Mayor Buddy Dyer all spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance, saying it would ease the strain on the courts, police officers and taxpayers.
Dyer also said it would give young people who made a mistake a second chance.
"And these young people enter the criminal justice system for possessing a small amount of marijuana," said Mayor Dyer. "And with that arrest record it becomes more challenging to get a job, join the military, or get financial aid to continue their education."
Twenty people spoke at the first reading of the proposed ordinance expressing different points of view.
"Today would have been my son's 21st birthday," said one speaker. "We feel marijuana is a gateway drug - it leads to other things."
"I feel this is a false sense of protection for people of color," said Cynthia Harris. "Marijuana is still illegal in the state of Florida."
Last week, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs expressed concern over the proposed ordinance.
"In follow up to proposed City of Orlando marijuana ordinance, and because more information is needed, I am recommending to Ninth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Fred Lauten, chair of the Orange County Public Safety Coordinating Council, that a work group of the PSCC be established," wrote Jacbos in an email to News 6. "My concerns are with the many questions that need to be answered, and the many details that need to be worked out collaboratively - with all of our county jurisdictions and public safety partners at the table. Among the issues, depending upon precisely where city/legal boundaries occur, citizens on one side of the street might receive a citation, but be arrested on the other. Other issues, including precisely when a citation would be issued versus arrest, as well as whether citations will result in permanent records, should also be looked at collaboratively. The PSCC is perfectly suited to fill this role."
The Orlando City Commission will continue discussion of the proposed ordinance at its second reading at the next commission meeting on May 9.