Since it began in early 2017, the Wilton Manors Police Department has issued a total of 114 citations for individuals caught with under 20 grams of cannabis on their person. In 2017, 79 citations were issued and 42 paid. This year, 35 have been issued and 11 paid.
The citations are issued as an alternative to arrests. When they approved it in December of 2015, commissioners said they wanted to make sure fewer people were caught up in the criminal justice system for something as minor as personal marijuana use.
It was a decision that was supported by NORML, a nationwide organization working to amend laws dealing with cannabis. Karen Goldstein, deputy director of NORML, said America’s war on drugs has failed to curb drug abuse and has created more problems – increased incarceration rates and convictions that hurt people’s chances for meaningful employment and other opportunities. “It makes no sense. It’s a failed policy,” she said in 2015.
Commissioner Julie Carson said she still supports the program for those reasons. “There are too many young people, particularly of color, who are incarcerated and jailed.” Asked if she might expand the program to other narcotics or controlled substances, Carson said she would only support the program for marijuana.
Chief Paul O’Connell said his department would only alter the program at the direction of the commission. Also asked if he would ever consider expanding the program, he said that it would only be after a lot of careful thought and research. “We think it’s going better than expected,” he said about the current program.
All the individuals issued a citation are given a $100 fine for their first offense. Second-time offenders are given a fine of $250, and $500 for a third. In addition to the fine, a third offense results in the offender going through a mandatory substance abuse assessment. If an offender doesn’t pay the fine within 30 days, they are subject to arrest.