As you may know, the severity of the penalty for possessing marijuana depends in part on the amount that’s possessed. Possessing 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor. Any amount exceeding 20 grams is a felony.
It turns out that it’s not only the amount of marijuana that impacts the severity of the penalty imposed. The location where you’re using marijuana can also have a major effect on the type of penalty you receive.
In recent years, a number of counties have moved to reduce the severity of penalties issued for minor marijuana possession (20 grams or fewer). Some of these counties, including Broward and Dade counties, will issue a civil citation for the minor possession.
These citations function similarly to a speeding or other traffic ticket. The amount of the fine from these citations typically ranges from $75-$100.
No civil citations in Palm Beach County
Palm Beach County has a similar ordinance on the books that allows police to issue a civil citation for minor marijuana possession. However, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has instructed deputies to criminally charge anyone caught possessing marijuana, regardless of the amount.
The rationale given by the sheriff’s office is that by criminalizing marijuana possession, it provides offenders with access to drug counseling services. Some offenders may be able to have their charges reduced if they agree to enter a drug diversion program.
Those who receive citations may not feel the impetus to receive drug counseling. This can potentially increase the chances that those receiving citations will become repeat offenders.
It’s often true that first time offenders will be able to get the criminal charges dropped if they have a strong legal defense. Yet just as drug penalties vary from state to state, it’s also true that they vary from county to county here in Florida.