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Leon commissioners are looking into a proposal to make marijuana possession a civil offense

A photo of the wall inside the court house that says "Board of County Commissioners." The U.S and Florida flag hand on either side.
Craig Moore
WFSU Public Media

Leon County Commissioners are discussing an ordinance that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil rather than criminal offense under county rules. Supporters say it’s an option to help keep people out of jail for low level crimes. Critics argue the move would have little impact, since under state and federal laws recreational marijuana use is illegal. That concern derailed attempts at passing a similar ordinance in 2019.

“This is challenging because we don’t have the authority to require any of our law enforcement partners to take action on this ordinance," Leon County Commissioner Kristen Dozier said while speaking about the ordinance in October of 2019.

Many of the concerns then, continue to apply today. For example, Dozier pointed out, the policies surrounding recreational marijuana use are not yet settled.

“Things are going to change. 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, then I think it is worth it and I think this is moving in the right direction," Dozier said.

State Attorney Jack Campbell told county officials back in 2019 he would not follow the county ordinance because state and federal laws supersede it. A report from the county says Campbell’s position on the issue hasn’t changed. Cambell’s office currently operates diversion programs that are available for people found with less than 20 grams of marijuana. The programs work to keep people out of jail and in some cases help them avoid a criminal record. Critics say the programs don’t allow enough strikes and hope the proposed change in county rules would offer another avenue to accomplish the same goals.

The 2019 ordinance died on a tied vote. Two of the commissioners who voted against the move are no longer serving on the board. Commissioner Jimbo Jackson is the only commissioner who voted no and still holds a commission seat.

The county workshop on the issue starts Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.

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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