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Leon Commissioners Set To Discuss Civil Citations For Marijuana Possession

Photo by Panos Sakalakis on Unsplash

Leon County commissioners are looking into a plan to give people more leniency when they’re caught with small amounts of marijuana. The commission will take up a draft civil citation ordinance during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Leon County Commissioners say there’s no need to create a criminal record for people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana—meaning less than 20 grams—or the amount that would typically result in a misdemeanor charge. Commissioner Kristen Dozier says the rules are unclear as they are.

“We’ve got 33 states or so that have passed some level or either medical marijuana or full recreational use. In our state it has been medical. There likely will be a measure on the ballot next year to fully decriminalize recreational. But that doesn’t do anything on the federal level. So we are in a box right now because of these various rules,” Dozier says.

Right now, the state attorney’s office runs misdemeanor diversion and adult civil citation programs, but Dozier says they’re reserved specifically for people with no previous record—meaning even something like driving under the influence can disqualify a person.

“So it’s that simple. It’s no robbery or anything else. It can just be a DUI that prevents you from having access to either of these programs. And if you don’t qualify for, or pay $2-300 to get into the medical marijuana prescription pipeline, then if you’re caught, you had a DUI 10 years ago and you’re caught with medical marijuana and you don’t have a prescription, that can’t be a misdemeanor. That is a charge on your record,” Dozier says.

Dozier says that doesn’t seem fair. Commissioners are considering a draft ordinance that would extend a civil citation program even to people who have a prior record. But County Attorney Herb Thiele is careful to explain that doesn’t mean law enforcement must follow through.

“We don’t have the authority to direct any law enforcement agencies to do anything. And if those law enforcement agencies, should that be FDLE, or the FSU police department, or LCSO, choose to not honor such an ordinance then there’s nothing we could do about that,” Thiele says.

In the agenda item, county staff members say they’ve spoken with several of the stakeholders, including State Attorney Jack Campbell, who they say has indicated he would not participate in such a program since marijuana possession remains illegal under federal and state law and the draft ordinance attempts to decriminalize it. That’s an issue Thiele mentioned as well.

“We cannot decriminalize marijuana in Leon County. It’s a criminal act by state statute and it’s a criminal act by federal statute. You cannot make not criminal that which is criminal under the statute,” Theile says.

Other agencies, including the Leon County Sheriff’s office have indicated they’ll follow the guidance of the state attorney. The issue is scheduled for discussion during the commission meeting starting at 3:00 this afternoon.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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