(Jacksonville.com) A proposed Jacksonville Beach amendment is taking aim at the current marijuana laws, with hopes to make part of them vanish into a puff of smoke.
The nation’s largest marijuana advocacy group is pushing a plan to make possession of less than 20 grams a civil infraction instead of a criminal misdemeanor. If the group’s petition receives 1,442 signatures from registered Jacksonville Beach voters, a decriminalization amendment would be added to the ballot in the November 2010 general election.
If it passes, it would be the first of its kind in Northeast Florida, and organizers say they would push it in the other Beaches communities and Jacksonville. Nationally, similar amendments have passed in several other cities, including Denver, and a handful of states.
“It’s the will of the people and a product of our grandparents,” said Ford Banister, chapter president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, who’s spearheading the proposition. “It’s a political hot potato, and nobody wants to touch it. We’re out to change that.”
The proposed amendment would call for a civil fine of $100 for the possession of 20 grams or less –– enough for about 10-15 joints. The marijuana would also be confiscated. State law calls for up to a year behind bars and $1,000 in fines. Jacksonville Beach police would have the option to enforce either law.
The Jacksonville Beach police would likely enforce the state law and the city decrim ordinance would be symbolic. However, if the city and state are in enough financial trouble, maybe they would opt for not spending the money on the trials and jails and just making the $100 on the civil fine. Regardless, passing these sort of municipal ordinances is exactly the sort of thing NORML Chapters around the country have been doing for decades now. It was passage of many of these symbolic ordinances all throughout Massachusetts, for example, that laid the groundwork for passing decriminalization statewide.
One of the biggest hurdles we face is something I call “My Neighbor Hates Pot” Paradox. When you ask Americans their opinions on decrim or medical marijuana, by about 3-to-1 they are on our side. Then when you ask them whether their neighbor supports decrim or medical marijuana, by about 3-to-1 people think their neighbor is not on our side. That means the government’s successful propaganda campaign has made the reefer madness lies three times more powerful than the truth. The two out of three pot-supporting neighbors believe the one guy who hates pot is actually three guys.
This is only possible when your neighbors – and you – are closeted marijuana smokers.