The move to ease punishments for marijuana possession is gaining traction around the country. Some states have legalized marijuana for personal and medicinal use, while others have fairly lenient enforcement of existing drug laws.
It remains to be seen if Florida will ever legalize marijuana, but Palm Beach County might be on the way toward decriminalizing pot possession. County officials recently agreed to consider changing how law enforcement officers handle people who are caught with a small amount of marijuana.
Under the current system, if officers find even a tiny amount of marijuana on a person, police are required to file criminal charges against that person. They could be taken to jail or given a notice to appear in court as a result. A conviction for a small amount of pot might not result in a jail sentence -- probation or an order to seek drug treatment are more likely outcomes.
However, that conviction stays on a person's criminal record. This could have an impact for years down the road, especially when it comes to employment and having to disclose a drug conviction to a potential employer.
The county is only going to examine ideas for changing the law -- ideas that could lead to marijuana possession changed to a civil citation, which is essentially at the same level as a traffic ticket. Civil citations also do not appear on an individual's criminal record.
That is all still up in the air, however. Until that time, people charged with marijuana possession need to make sure they have an aggressive, zealous criminal defense attorney to assist them with their case.
Source: Sun Sentinel, "Palm Beach County to explore easing marijuana punishments," Andy Reid, June 23, 2015.