Commissioner Walter Harris supports pot decriminalization

By Raquel Garcia….

Commissioner Walter Harris (second from right) on Miami Beach surrounded by grassroots activists from the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy.

Commissioner Walter Harris was photographed recently with a group of activists while attending a Miami Beach rally outside city hall in support of a local referendum for the decriminalization of marijuana. Holding a sign depicting a giant pot leaf, Commissioner Harris appears relaxed and content surrounded by fellow supporters who presented a petition to the commission requesting anyone caught in possession of less than 20 grams of pot be fined $100 or less.

When asked about his presence at the rally Commissioner Harris said Miami Beach is the perfect forum for the issue as a popular resort area that ought to be in tune with what is going on around the nation. “Fifteen states and the District of Colombia have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and rather than tie up the court system, cost taxpayers money and delay police officers with more reports, this seems like a good solution for people who have no problem getting hold of marijuana and are going to continue to smoke regardless of its legal status.”

Director of the South Miami Drug-Free Coalition Margaret Sotham calls the argument a red herring. “What we know from looking at other states and communities and what we have learned from other states that have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana is that you are simply taking on one set of problems over another. So perhaps you trade court costs or lower court costs but what you end up with when you have greater access is more use and therefore more treatment, more addiction and more of a burden to society.”

Although Sotham concedes she did not have the immediate data at her fingertips she calls Harris’ argument inaccurate and shortsighted. “Marijuana use is the leading diagnosis for adolescents suffering from drug addiction and seeking treatment in the United States. Seen in its totality it is the reason for myriad problems like high academic dropout rates, juvenile crime, mental health problems and primary health issues as well.”

Commissioner Harris however says he does not believe that decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for the casual user will encourage, increase or condone use for minors. “The idea that marijuana is a gateway drug is nonsense, it is not. Is alcohol a gateway drug? No deaths in the state of Florida or in the United States have ever been attributed to a marijuana overdose unlike alcohol and other drugs.”

Margaret Sotham and the South Miami Drug-Free Coalition essentially advocate rigorous scientific scrutiny and FDA approval of any new proposed drug. “Marinol, the synthetic version of THC, the main compound in marijuana went through a rigorous scientific process and was determined to have some benefit and became available through prescriptions. Our coalition supports that kind of scientific research if there is a medicinal value in the compounds. We are not about denying comfort and care to people who may be sick and could benefit from usage, we simply want to be sure there is a scientific process and approval beforehand. Smoking pot has not gone through this type of scrutiny.”

Public Information Officer for the State Attorney’s Office Ed Griffith says lobbying for change in marijuana usage by way of petitioning for a local ordinance is a moot point anyway since Florida state statutes established by the legislature dictate the law. “Prosecutors prosecute based on Florida statutes and misdemeanor arrests vary according to decisions made on the street. Cases for possession of small amounts of marijuana are rarely arrested on the spot but rather generally will get a notice to appear in court and will depend on the determination of the judge. There are no single indicators in terms of ultimate costs for these arrests. If you wish to change the law you should go to Tallahassee.”

Commissioner Harris suggested the police department should be contacted to inquire about issues related to the decriminalization of marijuana. Chief of Police Orlando Martinez de Castro of the South Miami Police Department had this to say: “my opinion on these matters is irrelevant because in this state and in my city, possession and usage of marijuana continues to be illegal. As police officers we do not create the law we enforce it. This is our job and we will always do it to the best of our ability.”

Director of the South Miami Drug-Free Coalition Margaret Sotham had one ultimate inquiry addressed to Commissioner Harris, “my question to the commissioner would be was he there in an official capacity or as a private citizen?”

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29 Comments on "Commissioner Walter Harris supports pot decriminalization"

  1. Dude, where's my commissioner?

  2. Cheech and Eda | July 26, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Reply

    Walter, you threw momma under da bus! Shame on you!

  3. I'mRickJames | July 26, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Reply

    So who is the biggest stoner on the Dias? THarrisC, Professor Doobie, Jamaican Ganja Queen, or Munchie Momma?

  4. I will say this about Walter Harris. At least he is addressing an issue in a positive manner. The citizens are so sick of the hate and vitriol spewed at those meetings. You can agree or disagree with his position but he is not attacking anyone personally, ripping on the city employees, trying to fire the manager, hating the hospital, or scheming to get reelected.
    Kudos to Walter.

  5. lighten up folks, sorry I meant light up folks

  6. Ok so "if you can't beat um, join um" is the solution he's came to? "Why not legalize heroine to make it easier on the cops so they don't have to arrest so many heroine addicts." I just think their trying to find an easy way out of this then the hard way. Speaks volumes of our country. pshh

    • Who were we ever trying to beat in this War in Ourselves that has been raging for more than 75 years? Marijuana is not heroine. It is a plant that is much SAFER than alcohol or tobacco. It is also a valuable medicine.

    • fess up walter | August 7, 2011 at 10:22 am | Reply

      I'm with you ..Where the hell is the Just say no to drug program that was so prevalent a while back.Start em early so it lasts a life time.Golly, can't believe I wrote that… Sounds like what the dope dealers do.

  7. Hello there, I discovered your blog via Google while searching for a similar subject, your web site got here up, it seems great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  8. The way you said he seemed "relaxed" perhaps he was there on a personal agenda

  9. Yo bro! What's cookin? or is that smoke from something else

  10. give me a break | August 7, 2011 at 10:11 am | Reply

    It was Bill Clinton that said" I didn't inhale." But in this case it was the commissioner that said" I don't smoke, but my departed mother took some."

    Cheech and Eda.You guys are right. when you said" Walter, you threw momma under da bus! Shame on you!"

    • Where is the pot patrol when you need it? The cops bust the pot in the brownie guy, but the cops look the other way, when the pot is growing in the bushes in the front yard of….. well I won't tell them where it is but the cops should take one of those pot dogs through the neighborhood and who knows what they might find.

      Love to see our city council members take drug tests. But not the pee ones, we want the test done on hair that shows drug use for months and months.

      Any volunteers?

  11. What happened to the big pot brownie bust from a few weeks ago? It is hyped up big in Neighborings but no followup. South Miami News, how about a follow up.

    • GeorgeCarlinsGhost | August 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Reply

      Yeah Millers, how about it? And ask each Commish their position. And ask mayor Phil Nye the science guy what is the science on cannabis consumption?

  12. It's up in smoke | August 8, 2011 at 5:24 am | Reply

    If the cops were to drive by stoners home they just might get a whiff of what is going on inside the house and maybe even in his yard. Shhhh. Poof the Magic Dragon

  13. former addict | August 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Reply

    Where is that anti- drug lady?

    PS. Maybe someone on that commission should go to the Addiction Program at the local hospital

  14. Walter Marley | August 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Reply

    South Miami Goes Green!

  15. wave hi to leaders | August 10, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Reply

    How about a group of stoners show up at a commission meeting and show their support of Harris and perhaps that all could just wave at him and say Hi, or is that High. Either way stoners should delight that they have one of their brothers up there leading the way.

    • snoop walty walt | August 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Reply

      The ghost of Mrs. Harris will hover around the room saying waaaallllttttterrrr, why did you call me a stonerrrrrrr, Boooooooooo!

  16. Can I get invited | August 11, 2011 at 6:03 am | Reply

    Remind the Heads that they can meet their fearless leaders at city at hall and afterwards they can go to the after the meeting meeting where the real business takes place.. ..

  17. Yo dude.What ya been smokin? Now I understand what the heck is going on over at city hall. Maybe he should pass the good stuff around and the rest of them will mellow out a bit.

    Ya call it mellow yellow…

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