Marijuana Decrim Heats Up in Miami Beach

Robert Platshorn and Irvin Rosenfeld at the Miami Beach City Commissioners meeting

7/14/2011- Tubbs and Crockett could be issuing tickets for pot possession and saving their city’s tax dollars. Popular tourist destination Miami Beach is cranking up the heat for cannabis reform. Some dedicated advocates have spent the last year gathering 9,000 signatures for a decriminalization measure. This week the petition was submitted to the Miami Beach City Commissioners.

The reduction in penalties would mean that adults caught with less than 1 ounce of cannabis would face a $100 fine and no criminal record. That would be a big change from the possible year in jail and $1000 fine currently for up to 20 grams of pot.

Some nationally prominent marijuana activists are residents of the Miami area and have given significant momentum to the cause.

Robert Platshorn served the longest sentence in history for a non-violent marijuana offense: 28 years. He is involved with the campaign and was on the scene this week: “We went in to present the 9,000 signatures and ten of us also testified. Now we’ve verified most of them [signatures]. If 6,400 are verified they have to put it on the ballot or call a special election. The only concern by Commissioners was triggering a special election in these tough economic times. That would cost the city about 250,000 dollars.”

Although concerned about the technical details the Miami Beach Commissioners, including Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, did take the issue seriously. “They were really very receptive to the petition,” Platshorn said, “where we didn’t have a sponsor on the commission; we do now. They all made statements that they were not against it. Again, we were very well received….many of the speeches got applause from the Commissioners.”

Irvin Rosenfeld is one of the few federal medical marijuana patients and garnered some of those applause. Rosenfeld’s tins of 300 cannabis cigarettes are manufactured by federal authorities under a program created in the late 1980’s.Florida saw a state medical marijuana resolution introduced earlier this year but there was no legislative action.

“I care about medicine getting to patients,” said Rosenfeld,”decriminalization helps patients because now they don’t have to worry about being arrested.”

He brought his tin of cannabis to show the Commissioners, “I asked them to hold up their hands and asked if they paid federal taxes. And they all raise their hands and then I took out my tin – I said ‘Isn’t it silly that city police would be spending time and money chasing people down for the same thing you paid for that helps me!’”

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