Councilman Dennis Files Bill To Decriminalize Pot In Jacksonville

May 9, 2019

A bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana has been filed with the Jacksonville City Council.

The measure by Councilman Garrett Dennis would create a civil citation program that allows police to issue a ticket to someone caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana or related paraphernalia.

In an email to WJCT News, Dennis said while running for reelection he saw many citizens whose lives were thrown into a downward spiral due having small amounts of marijuana.

“Families were in debt because of legal issues, loss of employment or the inability to secure gainful employment; based on these misdemeanor arrests,” Dennis said.

Under current law, possession of a small amount of pot is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Jacksonville attorney Sally Kent Peebles said if passed the bill would remove the threat of arrest and having a criminal record.

“If you have a small amount of marijuana on you for personal possession, you’re not going to jail. The city or the county still gets to hit you up with a fine so it’s not completely without penalty. But we’re not placing the person into a situation where they are, later on, going to have an inability to get a job or be incarcerated,” said Peebles.

According to Dennis, similar measures have been enacted in Daytona’s Volusia county, as well as Broward, Palm Beach and the city of Tampa.

The councilman said having the option to issue a civil citation would “ultimately assist with the overcrowding of our jails and the court system."

Laws concerning marijuana in Florida have been changing recently.

Florida voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana and in March Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a measure repealing a ban on smokable medica marijuana.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Contact reporter Cyd Hoskinson at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter at @cydwjctnews.