In 2015, Palm Beach county joined Broward and Miami-Dade counties in pass an ordinance that would make possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense. This law would allow people caught with small quantities of pot to pay a $100 fine in lieu of facing criminal charges. In essence, the new law allowed the police to treat minor marijuana offenses like a traffic ticket.
This change represented a crack in the draconian drug laws that Floridians must endure and was a clear step in the right direction. However, the march towards a more sensible drug policy has hit a snag. Palm Beach County Sheriff, Ric Bradshaw, has now announced that he will instruct his officers not to issue civil citations and to continue arresting pot offenders under the criminal law.
The ordinance does provide that an individual police officer has the discretion to decide between issuing the civil infraction or making a criminal charge, but the Sheriff’s actions appear to remove that choice from the individual officer and impose an across the board policy. Whether that action is legal in light of the new law is questionable.
Either way, this latest move by Sheriff Bradshaw just makes it clear that the fight to end marijuana prohibition continues for South Floridians, despite the progress we’ve seen in other parts of the country.