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A new city council ordinance could soon decriminalize possession of marijuana up to 20 grams in Orlando, but within the lines of UCFPD jurisdiction, the possible changes would be non-impacting.

On Monday, city of Orlando commissioners voted to approve the decriminalization ordinance in a 4-3 decision, and set May 9 as the date for the final vote. All new and amended ordinances brought before the city council are voted on twice, said Cassandra Lafser, a mayoral press secretary.

If passed, the ordinance would take effect immediately, but for UCFPD, which operates under state statutes and internal sanctions, the city of Orlando ordinance would be obsolete.

However, UCF Chief of Police Richard Beary said that, as it stands, the on-campus authorities make very few arrests for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

“We usually like to take an educational approach by sending students to Student Conduct,” he said. “We find that to be a very good alternative to arrest because it benefits the students.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has expressed support for the new policy, which would make possession of 20 grams or less a violation of city code, punishable by a $50 fine for first-time offenders.

“Sometimes, because of youthful mistakes, our at-risk young people enter the criminal justice system for possessing a small amount of marijuana,” Dyer said in a statement. “By giving our officers the ability to issue a citation for small amounts of marijuana, this is another way the city is working to provide those facing challenges opportunities for advancement.”

Dyer added that the change in policy would not only allow for the protection of Orlando youth, but also increase efficiency in the use of limited resources.

Marco Michilli, a senior digital media major and director of communication for UCF’s marijuana advocacy group NORML, echoed the mayor’s sentiments, saying that the ordinance would decrease the amount of taxpayer money that goes into arresting non-violent offenders.

“The most noticeable impact would be that Orlando police officers wouldn’t be wasting so much time arresting nonviolent citizens,” he said. “Instead of arresting, transporting, processing, detailing, prosecuting, incarcerating ... It would be a just a simple citation, like a parking ticket.”

This story was originally published on April 19, 2016. 

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Daniela Marin is the Entertainment Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @dan__marin or email her at DanielaM@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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