Councilman's push to decriminalize pot takes spotlight at meeting

Jacksonville Councilman Garrett Dennis held his second public meeting Monday, to hear from voters their opinions about his push to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville City Council member is continuing his push to decriminalize marijuana, and on Monday night, Garrett Dennis held his second public meeting to hear from potential voters.

During the meeting, some wanted to know how to contact other City Council members about the issue, while others just wanted to learn about Dennis' proposal. Just about all of the people who attended the meeting were in favor of Dennis' push.

"I just want to learn more about the laws and how we can change them for the better. Not just for medicinal but recreational purposes," Mohamed Jalloh said.

Under Dennis' bill, anyone caught with up to 20 grams of marijuana would not be charged criminally. Instead, they'd be given a civil citation and a $100 fine.

There's a bigger challenge brewing for officers. When the state Legislature legalized hemp in 2019, lawmakers specified that it must contain less than 0.3% THC.

Whether it's through smell or appearance, some say old methods of identifying marijuana don't show the difference between pot and hemp.

"It's the same thing as if somebody looked at a glass of alcohol," said Jack Campbell, state attorney, 2nd Judicial Circuit. "You might be able to smell and tell there's alcohol, but you couldn't look or smell and say what the proof of it is."

The state says there's a solution in the works, but Carrie McClain, a hemp attorney and advocate, said Dennis' bill would support the police and the public.

"He's giving the option to the officer, the discretion to the officer, which is going to give more support to those more conservative constituents in the community," McClain said.

McClain said her father, while in the Army, had his ear shot and used marijuana to cope with the pain.

There are two more upcoming community meetings:

  • 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

About the Author:

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.