No Smoking in the Sun: Miami Beach Bans Cannabis Consumption
Going down to Miami Beach to enjoy a relaxing day in the sun? Resist the urge to light up a joint as Miami Beach commissioners have just outlawed public cannabis consumption.
Florida legalized hemp on July 1, and since then cannabis has been as good as decriminalized. Possessing or using cannabis for recreational purposes is still an offense in the state of Florida, however, marijuana misdemeanors are treated as a civil infraction, or ignored. In fact, after Florida legalized cannabis last summer, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced that they will not prosecute minor marijuana charges due to the fact that marijuana is basically indistinguishable from hemp.
However, this did not stop Miami Beach commissioners from unanimously voting to ban public smoking of marijuana and hemp.
The ban was prompted by an overzealous visitor who climbed onto a police car on Columbus Day and smoked a joint. Captain Daniel Morgalo used this anecdote to demonstrate why his new ordinance is necessary.
Mayor Dan Gelber stated that Miami Beach is a “very progressive community”, but that its residents also expect “a certain level of conduct.”
Under the new law, smoking pot in public will be treated as a criminal offence, similar to an open-container violation. This means that people caught blazing weed in the open air can get a fine of $500 and 60 days in county jail.
Police Chief Rick Clements said that Miami Beach officers are very discreet and can easily go up to people and have them pour out open containers without any incidents. He added that this is particularly effective on “high-impact weekends” such as spring break and Memorial Day. Does this mean that they will be trying to catch relaxed spring breakers off-guard?
The ACLU of Florida criticized the ban, saying that it would discriminate against young people and persons of color. They added that the fines imposed are exaggerated and that public weed smoking could be discouraged with a civil citation, as is the case in other larger municipalities.
As for visitors flocking to Miami Beach for sun, sand, and weed, they would do well to remember the new regulation if they don’t want to end up behind bars. But hey, at least the sun and sand are still legal.