JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Opponents were quick to throw cold water on a proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Jacksonville when City Council Member Garrett Dennis floated the idea in May. Then a month later, a University of North Florida poll found broad public support for it.
At the time, UNF polling director Dr. Michael Binder suggested it might be wise for city leaders to hear voters out on this one.
Now it looks like Dennis wants to do just that. On Wednesday, his office announced plans to hold a series of meetings throughout the city over the next couple of weeks to hear from the community so that public input can help shape the legislation.
"This bill is a step in the right direction to move Jacksonville forward,” Dennis said. “In order to produce the best bill possible, it’s important to hear from the community and my colleagues about the decriminalization of marijuana.”
In a nutshell, here's how the bill would work: instead of getting arrested for possession, first-time offenders would receive a citation and $100 fine, or serve 10 hours of community service.
Possession of marijuana is illegal in Florida without a prescription. According to state law, having 20 grams or less of it is considered a first-degree misdemeanor offense.
Notably, the bill does not have the support of Sheriff Mike Williams, who said he sees no need for local legislation on the issue.
What Dennis is proposing is nothing new.
In recent years, cities across the state have passed similar laws, including Daytona Beach, Orlando and Tampa. Fines for first-time offenders range from $75 to $100, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Below you'll find a schedule of the upcoming community meetings:
- July 27: 10:30 a.m. at the South Mandarin Library, 12125 San Jose Boulevard
- July 29: 6:00 p.m. at the Bennie Furlon Senior Center, 281 19th Avenue S
- July 30: 6:00 p.m. at the Legends Center, 5130 Soutel Drive
- Aug. 5: 6:30 p.m. at the Webb Wesconnett Library, 6887 103rd Street