Decriminalize Florida Marijuana Laws?

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At a time when California is releasing thousands of small time drug offenders from prison, Florida could consider reducing its penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Lessening the penalties could save the state millions and help fill a three billion dollar budget gap.

Courtney Scout admits she smokes marijuana about once a week.

“It’s a plant, it grows from the earth. It’s not a chemical someone concocts in a room. It’s a plant and I don’t think it should be criminalized.”

She thinks Florida’s drug laws are too harsh.

A person caught with 20 grams of marijuana in Florida can go to prison for five years. In California 28 grams or less will just get you a misdemeanor. In New York offenders caught with less than 25 grams are given a civil citation.

Florida TaxWatch says the state could save 10 million dollars a year if it stopped sending low-level offenders to state prisons. Even Florida’s Attorney General admits changing the law could help fill the state’s three billion dollars budget gap.

“If you got simple possession of a small quantity, I think there are innovative ways to deal with simple possession that don’t always require going to prison.”

Victor Crist, the chairman of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee says it’s an idea worth discussing. Crist wants to reexamine all sentencing guidelines, not just those involving marijuana.

“We’ll be addressing that again this year and asking that the sentencing guidelines commission reconvene, look at our laws in the state and determine what is still appropriate and whether or not changes need to be made.”

But lessening the penalties to save taxpayer money would take bold action from lawmakers, who don’t want to look soft on crime during an election year.

Prolonged use of marijuana can cause cancer, respiratory problems, and memory loss.

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