The Marbut Report: Ordinance would reduce marijuana penalties

Sponsor says current law contributes to crowded jail and backlogged courts.

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If an ordinance introduced to City Council is enacted, the consequences for adults in Duval County who are apprehended for possession of a certain amount of marijuana would decrease from a first-degree misdemeanor arrest and criminal prosecution to a written citation and a fine or community service.

Council member Garrett Dennis introduced Ordinance 2019-330 that would create a civil citation program for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana or possession of marijuana paraphernalia as an alternative to criminal prosecution.

“There’s been a lot of misconception that I’m trying to legalize marijuana in Jacksonville and I’m not. This bill addresses how we punish people. Do we put them in jail, or do we give them a ticket and a fine?” Dennis said.

Instead of suspects facing arrest and court proceedings that could result in up to one year in jail or one year of probation and a $1,000 fine, under the proposal, suspects could be issued a citation and would pay a $100 fine or perform 10 hours of community service, with no criminal record.

Dennis said allowing civil citations for the offense could lead to apprehension and prosecution of people who are suspected of committing more serious crimes.

The current penalty “contributes to overcrowding in the jail and backlog in the court system,” he said.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, between Jan. 1, 2018, and May 10, 2019, 843 cases were opened in which possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana was the primary charge.

A spokesman for State Attorney Melissa Nelson said the office declines to comment.

Similar marijuana possession ordinances have been enacted in Alachua, Broward, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Palm Beach, Volusia and West Palm Beach counties.

Municipalities that have enacted similar policies include Cocoa Beach, Hallandale Beach, Key West, Miami Beach, Orlando, Port Richey and Tampa.

“It’s still wrong and it has to be punished. We’re not pioneers, we’re just moving with the times,” Dennis said.

The legislation was introduced Wednesday and now will be considered by council committees.

Dennis said he scheduled a noticed meeting Thursday to allow him and his colleagues to discuss the proposal and he’s planning to schedule several community meetings for the public.

Kevin Cook, Carl Dawson and Michael Fox Orr.
Kevin Cook, Carl Dawson and Michael Fox Orr.

Deja-coin flip for law firm name

Kevin Cook, Carl Dawson and Michael Fox Orr participated in a coin flip Tuesday in the lobby at Bank of America Tower Downtown.

Orr called “tails” when Dawson, who retired from Dawson|Orr last year, tossed a half-dollar into the air, establishing the new Orr|Cook law firm.

They were recreating a similar coin toss in 1953 on the same site, then inside the Graham Building, when Dawson won the toss that named The Law Offices of Carl D. Dawson and Luke G. Galant, precursor to Dawson|Orr.

Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association Lawyer of the Year Joni Poitier, left, and JWLA President Jamie Karpman.
Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association Lawyer of the Year Joni Poitier, left, and JWLA President Jamie Karpman.

Poitier named JWLA’s Woman Lawyer of the Year

Joni Poitier was named the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association’s 2019 Woman Lawyer of the Year.

 Poitier, a partner at Moseley Prichard Parrish Knight & Jones, is chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association Diversity & Inclusion Committee. 

“Joni is compassionate and a strong role model,” JWLA President Jamie Karpman said.

Ryan Morris
Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris joins RezLegal

Attorney Ryan Morris joined the RezLegal law firm in Ponte Vedra Beach.

He counsels health care providers, IT companies and others operating in the healthcare industry in corporate, administrative and regulatory matters, including litigation.

RezLegal represents clients in areas including mergers and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital transactions, structuring health care arrangements and government investigations and enforcement actions. 

Adoptions before Mother’s Day

Circuit Judge David Gooding convened proceedings at the Duval County Courthouse four days before Mother’s Day and presided over the adoption of 25 children by 16 families.

Gooding said that as of April 29, he had presided over the adoptions of 3,426 children who were able to leave foster care and join a permanent family. “Having a permanent family changes the future.

This will be the first Mother’s Day for many of our families,” he said.

Circuit Judge David Gooding presides over the adoptions.
Circuit Judge David Gooding presides over the adoptions.