A Florida lawmaker has introduced a bill to decriminalize cannabis in the state, reducing the penalties one would face if caught with a small amount.
Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones filed the bill, called HB 25, on Monday.
The bill proposes that anyone in possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis or 600 milligrams or less of THC in cannabis products (the drug’s psychoactive component) would be charged with a noncriminal violation rather than a misdemeanor.
A juvenile with the same cannabis possession is eligible for a civil citation program or pre-arrest diversion program, according to the bill.
The penalties would include up to a $500 fine, but no jail time or criminal record — significantly less harsh than the current penalties, which include up to one year of jail time or one year probation, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record that can affect applications for employment, college and housing.
Jones introduced the bill with a criminal justice angle.
“We must restore justice to our broken criminal justice system,” Jones said in a press release. “For far too long, communities of colour have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana, and we must end this injustice once and for all.”
Cannabis legalization and decriminalization movements in the U.S. have often been paired with a fight for criminal justice, considering statistics show that African-Americans have been disproportionately prosecuted for cannabis possession compared to white Americans.
An analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested due to cannabis than white people between 2001 and 2011, despite similar usage rates.
“After being charged with possession, many Floridians feel the lasting impact as their student financial aid, employment opportunities, housing eligibility, or immigration status are adversely affected,” Jones said. “When we take away these foundational compounds of security, we’re capping people’s potential in life. That’s why I’m proud to introduce legislation to fix this problem.”
The legislation was modeled after Ohio and New York’s legislation. New York recently decriminalized cannabis.
If passed, Florida would become the 27th state to decriminalize cannabis.
The bill is filed for Florida’s 2020 legislative session, which begins in January.
Meanwhile, the state has also made progress on establishing its cannabidiol (CBD) industry.
On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation to establish a state hemp program.
The law would begin the development of regulations for licensing, cultivation, and distribution of hemp and CBD products.
CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis that has gained traction due to claims it has therapeutic effects.
The CBD industry has taken off in the U.S. after the passing of the Farm Bill last year in the country, which allowed the legal production of CBD products from hemp that contains less than 0.3 percent THC.
Florida’s new hemp program would be the state’s own plan for how to regulate hemp, as set out by the Farm Bill.