The City of Miami Beach has criminalized public consumption of cannabis to prevent people from smoking weed while standing on top of cop cars.
The city of fun in the sun actually made progressive steps this summer when the Miami-Dade Police Department announced its cops would no longer be detaining people for smelling like dank weed, according to the Miami New Times.
The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill legalized hemp on a federal level and Florida passed its own bill to legalize hemp too on July 1, 2019. Hemp is the non-psychoactive plant which doesn’t get consumers high because of its low concentration of THC. North American hemp is defined as containing less than 0.3 per cent of THC, but that definition was tripping up Florida police.
Police struggle to distinguish cannabis and hemp
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has the ability to test cannabis for THC, but its labs can only test to check if THC is in the sample and not how much of the psychoactive compound is present, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Texas is also struggling to determine the difference between the two similar plants. The state legalized hemp in June 2019 but maintains some of the country’s strictest laws around cannabis.
Therefore arresting people just because of that dank weed smell, which could be coming from legal hemp, became a problem.
“Hemp and cannabis look, feel and smell the same, and both can be smoked. Currently, there is no way to distinguish between hemp and cannabis based on plain view or odour alone,” said the police department in a statement, adding officers would now need to make arrests with “odour plus.”
“Odour plus” is basically good ol’ police work, where officers would check for signs of impairment or wait to see if anyone confessed to having illegal drugs on them.
Miami-Dade County decriminalized cannabis possession under 20 grams in 2015
Weed has been technically decriminalized in the Miami-Dade County since 2015, where cops have had the option of writing any Floridians caught with less than 20 grams of cannabis a ticket rather than arresting them.
Far from a progressive step, however, the police digression has been largely used to ticket white people while arresting black people and punishing them with up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for the same misdemeanour, according to the Miami New Times.
But after a meeting held by the City of Miami Bench last week smoking any form of pot or hemp in public is illegal all over again.
In the meeting city commissioners unanimously voted to charge anyone seen smoking with a $500 fine and up to 60 days in county jail, which are similar punishments for open alcoholic container violations.
Miami-Dade Police Department Captain Daniel Morgalo was at the meeting to explain to city commissioners why this law was necessary.
According to the Miami New Times, a rowdy reveler over the Canadian Thanksgiving, or U.S. Columbus Day weekend, climbed on top of a squad car and lit a joint.
“So had he not been doing that—had he not been standing on top of the police vehicle and breaking other laws—we would not have a mechanism in place at this point to deal with this specific type of behaviour,” Morgalo told the commissioners.
Because, you know, without the ability to book him for smoking a joint the police would have been hard pressed to find a way to stop someone standing on top of their squad car.