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Palm Coast Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017 11 months ago

Concerned about unequal rules and lack of law enforcement support, county halts proposal to start marijuana civil citation program

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Former sheriff Jim Manfre proposed the idea in 2016, and the County Commission at the time showed some interest. Post-election, the idea has lost support.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

When then-sheriff Jim Manfre proposed in 2016 that the county handle minor marijuana offenses with civil citations rather than arrests, the notion had some backing on the County Commission.

An election later, with Manfre gone and three new commissioners seated on the five-member board, the idea has been killed. The County Commission, in an Oct. 2 workshop, directed county staff not to continue working on it.

Commissioner Greg Hansen said he supported law enforcement officials who didn't favor the idea.

"I don't think we should go forward," he said.

“The key is to be uniform throughout the whole county and other counties nearby,” said Commissioner David Sullivan. “If we don’t have that … I don’t think we’re ready for this at this time.”

The issue, after it was approved in a split vote of the county's Public Safety Coordinating Council in the summer of 2016, had been put on hold before last year's election.

"We delayed it a little bit so it wouldn’t become a political football," County Administrator Craig Coffey told the County Commission at the workshop. "And now we’ve got a new board, we've got three new members that are here today, and we’ve got basically every law enforcement official in the county saying we’re not really interested in doing this unless it’s part of a state overall program."

The program would have let deputies issue a citation for first-time offenders caught with under 20 grams of marijuana or with marijuana paraphernalia.

Undersheriff Jack Bisland told commissioners that deputies do currently have the discretion to issue a notice to appear in court rather than making a physical arrest. The current process, however, creates an arrest record, while the proposed citation process would have prevented that: The citation would have been handled like a traffic offense.

Current Sheriff Rick Staly has not supported the idea of a county citation program, saying that the issue should be handled statewide. Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney and Bunnell Police Chief Tom Foster also have opposed the idea of a local civil citation program for marijuana.

Former county commissioner Barbara Revels had supported the issue on the Board of County Commissioners last year, but Revels was voted out.

County Commissioner Donald O'Brien had supported a civil citation program when he was campaigning, but, by a commission workshop Oct. 2, had changed his mind.

"This is one of the things that I did talk about during the campaign; I thought it was a direction to go in with respect to not hurting folks that maybe had a minor offense, something when they were young, a youthful kind of situation," he said at the workshop. But, he added, "I would also support that we not move forward with the civil citations at the point, again given the fact that we would have surrounding jurisdictions that are not doing that." 

The lack of support from local law enforcement authorities also influenced O'Brien's decision, he said. 

County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, who'd favored the proposed citation program in the past, did not speak on the issue Oct. 2, and Commissioner Charlie Ericksen was absent. But opposition from three members of the five-member board was enough to kill the proposal. 

 

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