Marijuana possession takes one more step towards decriminalization at the local level with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office as well as other municipal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction to create the adult pre-arrest diversion program (APAD) which was launched at the beginning of the month. This program allows for those individuals caught by law enforcement committing any eligible misdemeanor or in criminal violation of any county ordinance to confess their guilt to the presiding officer. At that time, the officer may choose to arrest or offer APAD.
Those who enter APAD will be required to complete community service, counseling or treatment, and restitution to any victims. Those who successfully complete the program will not be booked into county jail or placed on the HCSO website, will not have a FCIC rap sheet with FDLE, or an NCIC rap sheet with the FBI. Case details will be public record on the Clerk of the Court’s website.
Proponents of the APAD argue that this program allows for adults to avoid arrests and a criminal record which can hinder their future. However, this program does require one to give up all Constitutional protections such as the right to remain silent since a confession is required to be eligible to participate. The State Attorney’s Office will be keeping demographic and program data to determine effectiveness of the program over the next year.
This is an interesting development since Central Florida NORML supported newly elected State Attorney Andrew Warren because of his stance on marijuana decriminalization over the previous State Attorney and notorious prohibitionist, Mark Ober. It is refreshing to see a program like this go from campaign promise to fruition. Newly appointed Hillsborough County Sheriff and current candidate for that same office, Chad Chronister is in support of this program. We hope he remains open to going even further in adopting more robust decriminalization policies and reversing 80 years of racially motivated prohibition. The disparities in marijuana arrests in Hillsborough County are astounding as African Americans are six times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as their Caucasian counterparts although marijuana use across ethnics groups remains virtually the same.
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By Christopher C. Cano, MPA – Executive Director, Central Florida NORML