By Jennifer Edwards-Park
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
PALM COAST — Flagler County officials are planning a meeting with city officials to discuss the feasibility of a local law that could give sheriff’s deputies the option of writing a citation or arresting people caught with small amounts of pot.
It’s a topic of robust debate nationally with some states legalizing marijuana in defiance of federal law, the state of Florida OKing some medical marijuana, and most recently, Volusia County softening its stance on those caught with small amounts of cannabis.
In Flagler County, it’s currently a misdemeanor to possess even small amounts of marijuana and being caught generally leads to arrest, incarceration, prosecution and perhaps further incarceration and court fines.
Officials in counties and municipalities across the state and nation have been having similar discussions regarding whether the process is a good use of finite resources such as jail cells, law enforcement time, and money paid to both prosecutors and public defenders.
Flagler County spokeswoman Julie Murphy said Flagler County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Revels, a member of a public safety committee, invited the mayors, city managers and police chiefs from all of Flagler County’s cities to a meeting May 11 to discuss the topic.
The meeting is set for 8:45 a.m. in the county’s Emergency Operations Center.
“Small amount means 20 grams or less and there is no ordinance specifically addressing the issue of amount,” Murphy wrote in an email.
“This meeting is to get some input about the topic,” she said.
Some Palm Coast City Council members recently expressed interest in attending the meeting but shared differing opinions on whether they thought marijuana possession should be a ticket-able offense.
City Attorney Bill Reischmann told council members Tuesday that the talks did not have anything to do with decriminalizing marijuana possession — the state Legislature would have to do that. What leaders would be talking about is what police response should be.
Mayor Jon Netts didn’t like the idea of deciding the issue locally, preferring instead to leave it up to the state. He said different populations taking different tacks creates “dissimilarity in behavior, dissimilarity in treatment.”
However, he added, “I think decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana is probably long overdue.”
Vice Mayor Heidi Shipley said she thinks pot laws are too harsh to fit the crime.
“I think the concern about a pot conviction is something that would follow you your whole life, just because you did something in the ’80s,” she said.
City Manager Jim Landon said he’d let county officials know that multiple council members are interested in attending the meeting.
Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal