ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Imagine instead of being arrested for having marijuana, you get a ticket instead. That's an idea being floated in St. Johns County and in St. Augustine right now.
"It would save a lot of time for deputies in the field," said Commander Chuck Mulligan with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
The suggestion is this: Instead of charging people who have small amounts of marijuana with a crime, give them a civil citation.Mulligan spoke on Sheriff's David Shoar's behalf, saying "The Sheriff does not condone marijuana use nor is he advocating for the decriminalization of marijuana in the broader sense."
Mulligan said his boss says it may be time to reassess how deputies deal with people who have small amounts marijuana because it can free them up to deal with bigger issues."We at the the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office are dealing with rapid growth in the county," Mulligan explained. "We are dealing with drugs that are very serious, that are life threatening, and so we want to focus on these things and be fiscally responsible in every way we can."
"We feel a 5 or 10 minute citation process is much better in certain circumstances than a 1.5 to 2 hour long arrest process," he added."I'm in favor of Sheriff Shoar moving forward," said Leanna Freeman, a St. Augustine city commissioner. She suggests the city should also consider this idea of giving civil citations for small amounts of pot.
Freeman sees how the current process clogs up the courts."As a practicing attorney, I realize and appreciate the amount of time and money each case takes up in our county and our state," Freeman noted. "In general, if you are looking for a trial date in St. Johns County, you're probably looking at 2018 to get a trial date from today's date."
Right now, the idea of citing someone for a small amount of marijuana has not even been formally written up as a proposed county or city ordinance. So the details of how much is a small amount or what is the punishment are still hazy.The city police chief is expected to weigh in on the issue at a city commission meeting in July.