The Broward County Commission gave a green light towards a marijuana ordinance Tuesday, as a public hearing was held to discuss options that could keep those apprehended with small quantities of marijuana from going to jail.

Under the ordinance, which is just like the ordinances in Miami-Dade County and Key West, law enforcement will have the option of issuing a $150 ticket to someone caught with 20 grams or less of cannabis instead of filing a misdemeanor criminal charge against that person.

A $250 citation would be given for a second offense and a $500 citation for a third offense. Violators would also have to complete an assessment/treatment plan.

“We’re not condoning the use of marijuana. We’re not encouraging it,” said Vice Mayor Marty Kiar, who brought the issue forward. “The reason this is important is because an arrest can ruin people’s lives. The vast majority aren’t convicted, yet once arrested a person can lose their job, be denied housing (and) lose their income. Many people who are arrested are working hard to make ends meet, and a civil citation won’t derail their lives.”

Under the ordinance, civil citations would not be given if someone is discovered with marijuana in conjunction with other crimes, such as driving under the influence.

“I am for allowing the option of a civil citation, including treatment,” said Commissioner Chip LaMarca. “I just want to make sure that we’re very careful that we’re not allowing other drugs to come into the process because they look like something else.”

Currently Florida makes possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail term of one year and a $1,000 fine.

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