When it comes to lowering penalties for marijuana possession, discretion is key. In Leon County, law enforcement has the option to grant pre-trial diversion for adults who have 20 grams or less. And some commissioners say if the program is working, why mess with it?
Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor wants to remove discretion from law enforcement officers and create one policy that applies to possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana.
"We don’t have to leave all that power with the state attorney to decide who is worthy of his diversion. We can put twenty grams or less and divert a whole lot of people and set that in motion today."
The state attorney can decide who to prosecute for first time offenses of marijuana possession under a certain amount. And local law enforcement can write civil citations as well. Two and a half years ago, the commission adopted a program that giving officers discretion. But Proctor argues that idea plays on favoritism. And his plan would remove descretion and allow diversions to be unlimited. Proctor’s plan would remove that discretion and allow diversions to be unlimited. But Commissioner Nick Maddox worries that’s a step too far.
“There could be something that the sheriff says or the police chief or any other stakeholder in the room says…but right now, I am in far of codifying—if we even go that far," he said.
To codify the current program would mean allowing current policies to become a county law.
Commissioner John Dailey is completely opposed to any changes. He says local law enforcement oppose the plan. Furthermore, he says, the county is home to more than a dozen law enforcement agencies—and not all of them have to abide by follow local rules.
“I do not think it’s within our jurisdiction to have this conversation. Because our community is different from the Palm Beach County and the Miami-Dade’s--because we have such a large concentration of state and federal law enforcement agencies -- we could create a scenario where it really depends on who pulls you over? is it a local, state or federal officer? For those reasons I am not in favor of any major changes.”
The Commission did not approve Proctor’s plan. Instead, it has settled for holding a workshop on the issue. It did not set a date.
Orlando is the latest city to lower penalties for marijuana possession. Tampa made a similar move last month.
In November, Florida voters will decide whether to approve a state constitutional amendment allowing the medical use of marijuana, and in recent years, the Florida legislature has slowly relaxed rules setting up a path for medicinal use of the plant.