City of Sarasota moving ahead with discussion to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana

City of Sarasota moving ahead with discussion to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana

SARASOTA (WWSB) - If one Sarasota City Commissioner has his way, there will be an option for softer rules when people get caught smoking or in possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. Commissioner Hagen Brody wants to give police the option to make it a civil citation, saying this would be beneficial in many ways including reducing the overcrowding in Sarasota County jails.

“You’re looking at a ticket as opposed to a criminal citation or an arrest that demands all the resources of the criminal justice system,” said Brody.

Brody says this would save taxpayers a lot of money. Currently, those arrested for small amounts of marijuana possession face a year in prison, a $1000 fine and a driver’s license suspension. Sarasota resident Martin Hyde isn’t sold on the idea. He tells us having a more lenient punishment could bring in more criminal activity from elsewhere.

“I do see the potential for people to take day trips, tripping all the way down to Sarasota because the outcome is going to be better for them,” says Hyde.

Colby Wise, Campaign Coordinator for Floridians for Freedom, believes this proposed ordinance is a step in the right direction but he and others would like to see it go even further.

“If they would take the ability for officers to arrest people off the table and have it be cleanly a real decriminalization, no ticket, no penalty and allow them just to walk freely with their cannabis without fearing arrest,” said Wise.

Monday night Sarasota City Commissioners voted unanimously to direct city staff including the city attorney to draft language that would make possession of cannabis and paraphernalia under 20 grams a civil citation. It’s not known when it will be brought back in front of commissioners.

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