The City of Orlando is planning to move forward with a new marijuana policy today, but what does it really mean locally and why are some groups like Organize Now claiming the proposal is something more than it really is? To be clear, the data does not match the rhetoric surrounding Orlando’s marijuana decriminalization.
In fact, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s proposal could actually make small possession of marijuana in the city limits more of a complicated matter now. Based on data provided by the Orlando Police Department, local city police officers already are not targeting marijuana possession as a priority or reason for arrest in most cases. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs weighed in on the city proposal and warned residents and college students that nothing was changing in the region based on Orlando’s possible new ordinance. She decried the use of the word “decriminalization,” saying it was not happening despite what Orlando officials are saying. If anything, now people in the City of Orlando will face a $50 fine for the first offense and $100 for the second offense, but will also now have marijuana citations on their permanent record. Before this new policy, most were simply let go after officers confiscated the pot.
In a city with around 300,000 residents, a metro area of nearly 2.5 million, and a region visited by tens of millions of tourist every year, barely anyone is being arrested only for marijuana possession in Orlando. Those are the facts. And while Organize Now claims one reason the new policy is needed is “disproportionate arrests of minority youth engaged in marijuana possession,” it’s just not true.
Only 34 juvenile arrests in which possession of cannabis was the only charge were made in the City of Orlando in 2015. Only 293 adults were arrested when possession of cannabis was the only charge by OPD last year. That means less than one person per day on average. The number of juvenile arrests in 2015 for marijuana possession was actually down from the year before, as there were 42 juvenile arrests made in which possession of cannabis was the only charge in 2014. Only 335 adults were arrested in 2014.
Even Orlando Police Chief John Mina supports Dyer’s proposal, pointing out that nothing will change except the new fine being imposed.
Organize Now is only helping Dyer selfishly turn this no-brainer into a “social justice” issue for Orlando, all while Dyer pushes the gentrification of the African-American neighborhood Parramore, while Dyer builds industrial warehouses in protected environmental space near minority neighborhoods, and while Dyer completely refuses to acknowledge the ongoing police brutality and excessive force happening in our city, among many other real serious issues impacting the minority community. Also, Dyer’s Deputy Chief of Staff Heather Fagan was unaware of details regarding meetings or discussions with Organize Now’s Racial Justice Committee, meaning the impact of their discussions on Dyer’s decision was likely limited at best.
It’s all political and it’s all a façade, as usual, in the City of Orlando.