Fayetteville no-jail pot ordinance passes first hurdle

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The Fayetteville City Council on Aug. 20 conducted the first of two public hearings on a new marijuana ordinance designed to lower fine amounts and have the person cited avoid jail time. The second hearing and potential adoption will come on Sept. 3.

The ordinance calls for a $125 fine and no court date for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense within one year and a $500 fine for a third offense with a one-year period.

The ordinance notes that $150 on the second and third offenses can be refunded upon successful completion of a substance abuse program or class. Beyond that, additional offenses call for a $500 fine for which no refund is provided.

The same fine amounts hold true for minors under age 18, though a court date with a parent or legal guardian present is required.

In all cases, there will be no jail time served.

As for the current fine amounts, a first offense fine is $1,093 and the second offense is $1,343. There is no current third offense fine amount.

“Our goal is to reduce the amount of people that are incarcerated for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana, thus reducing the stigma of having this type of conviction on an individual’s record. This is one of the agenda items we discussed at the council retreat this year as a goal and objective for the city and the police department,” Chief Scott Gray said in an Aug. 4 letter.

Gray noted at the meeting that using marijuana will not forestall charges of other crimes when marijuana is present.

Citing the example of a DUI, Gray said that if a driver is stopped for being less safe, a charge of DUI drugs will be issued, which is a separate charge from possession of under an ounce.

Gray after the meeting emphasized that driving under the influence of any intoxicant, whether alcohol, marijuana or any prescription or illegal drug, is illegal.

The second public hearing and potential adoption will be on Sept. 3.