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Marijuana Civil Citation Program Fails On Tie After Commissioner Calls Into Meeting

Pastor Julius McAllister discuss mental health and substance abuse

A vote to create a new marijuana civil citation program in Leon County failed in a tie Tuesday. One of the commissioners dialed into the meeting and local rules say a caller can’t break a tied vote.

Commissioners discussed a draft ordinance that would create civil citations for people caught with small amounts of marijuana. As it is now, civil citation programs are limited to people with an otherwise clean record. The draft county ordinance would expand that. Commissioner Kristen Dozier says people deserve more chances before they’re saddled with a criminal record.

“This is a tool that if it was used by one of the 20 plus agencies in our community to prevent one person from having a permanent criminal record that interrupts their ability to get a job and live a full life in our community, I think it is worth it," Dozier says.

But the proposal faced pushback. Law enforcement and the state attorney’s office told county staff members they wouldn’t use the program. And Commissioner Bryan Desloge says he thinks the move goes outside the county commission’s bounds.

“When you get right down to it, we can’t decriminalize marijuana. No matter what you say. The sheriff has made it abundantly clear he’s not arresting 20 grams or less. If need be, they go to a diversion. The state attorney has said he’s not prosecuting these. I think we’re getting a little bit out of our swim lane here and trying to put something in place that confuses things,” Desloge says.

Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley agrees the move is likely to lead to confusion. She offered a motion of accepting the status report and taking no further action toward creating an ordinance.  The motion failed in a 3-4 vote. But Commissioner Bill Proctor, who had called into the meeting, was on the prevailing side. County Attorney, Herb Thiele, told commissioners that meant the vote was actually considered tied.

“The commissioner appearing on the telephone is under our rules not permitted to break a tie. So the substitute motion fails on a 3-3 vote, not on a 3-4 vote,” Thiele said.

Theile told commissioners the same rule would apply for the next vote they were preparing to take—this time on a motion in favor of moving forward with an ordinance.

“If the original motion which is now on the floor because the substitute motion failed 3-3, if the original motion passes 4-3 with Commissioner Proctor voting in the majority, it fails 3-3," Thiele said.

Tied votes are considered  failed votes under the county’s rules.

The news frustrated Proctor who said he had called in from a conference he’s attending under the impression that he could participate. Proctor told Thiele he thought he was being "arbitary and seeking the result that [he] chose."

Proctor hung up the phone before Thiele went on to explain that the county commission’s written rules say a commissioner can participate in a meeting by phone and can vote, but cannot break a tied vote. Since commissioners could not reach a consensus, the issue won’t move forward.

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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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