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Leon County won't move forward with a civil citation ordinance for marijuana possession

a close up of hands. One person hands another marijuana.
Jeff W
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Unsplash

Leon County Commissioners won't pass an ordinance aimed at making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil rather than criminal offense. Members voted Tuesday to throw their weight behind existing diversion programs instead.

The commission discussed a similar ordinance back in 2019, but the move failed on a tied vote. Last October, Commissioner Bill Proctor asked the board to consider the issue again.

The discussion has resurfaced as the county explores strategies for managing its higher than average jail population. But, Commissioner Nick Maddox said there’s nobody at the Leon County jail who is serving time solely for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.

“I’m convinced that the system is not broken," Maddox said. "If we had come here today and we had said that the sheriff and the state attorney were locking people away with 20 grams or less, or even if there were two people in our detention center that were charged with such, then I think I would be in a different place."

The state attorney’s office operates pre and post-arrest diversion programs, which aim to keep people out of jail for minor offenses and sometimes avoid a criminal record. State Attorney Jack Campbell said the number of people who have used the pre-arrest program is “very small.” He told commissioners it’s up to officers to refer people to the program.

“The officer always has the discretion of pouring out the beer that they catch the high school student with and then I never know about it—all the way up to taking them to jail. It’s the same thing with marijuana," Campbell said. "I don’t know why the officers use the discretion that they do nor is it in my gambit as your state attorney to do that.”

Commissioners voted Tuesday to pass a resolution in support of the pre-arrest diversion program, which replaced the county’s adult civil citation program in late 2017. Commissioners will also ask the Public Safety Coordinating Council to discuss ways to encourage officers to make more use of pre-arrest diversion.