WPB Commission moves forward with civil penalties option for pot - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

WPB Commission moves forward with civil penalties option for pot possession

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla-- Getting caught with pot in West Palm Beach might soon have different consequences.

The City of West Palm Beach is moving forward with an ordinance that could keep an arrest off your record if you’re caught with a small amount of pot

The first reading of the ordinance passed at Monday night’s City Commission meeting.

This ordinance would officers the chance to issue a $100 dollar citation if someone is caught with marijuana as an alternate form of punishment to making an arrest.

“We’ve been mass incarcerated for non-violent criminal offenses, and it’s been devastating to us."Community activist William McCray says arresting a person for a small amount of pot can have long lasting effects.

“The main reason for much of the crime in the black community is lack of job,s and when you get these arrests you can’t get a job," said McCray.

The West Palm Beach City Commission is moving forward with a new ordinance that would give police another option if they catch someone with 20 grams or less of marijuana and or drug paraphernalia.

The officer could either issue a 1) civil citation (basically a $100 dollar ticket) 2)make an arrest (or give them a notice to appear) 3) or make no arrest.

But not everyone agrees this will solve the drug problem.

”By giving them a slap of the wrist because they got 20 grams or  less,  it’s just for most of them to go right back out and get more," said one West Palm resident at the meeting.

The proposed ordinance got strong support from both the commission and the community,  including the Public Defender Carey Haughwout and the PalmBeach County chapter of the ACLU. However, there is some concern that without specific criteria, leaving the penalty option to the officer's discretion  will translate into discrimination.

“We would like to make sure that the police write rules for exercising discretion that eliminate the possibility of discrimination, and we would like some tracking of the results so that we're sure that that doesn't occur," said Mark Schneider, president of the local ACLU chapter.

City officials say the new ordinance would not interfere with police investigations and probable cause to search.

It’s still not clear how someone's prior offenses would impact whether an officer can issue the civil citation.

The ordinance will come up for a second reading on September 15.

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