Fayetteville moves toward lowering pot possession fines

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Fayetteville Police Chief Scott Gray. Photo/Ben Nelms.
Fayetteville Police Chief Scott Gray. Photo/Ben Nelms.

The new Fayetteville marijuana ordinance designed to restructure fines and eliminate jail time for possession of less than an ounce, and with the requirement for attendance in a substance abuse program for those under age 21 had its first reading on Oct. 15. The second reading and likely vote will come at the Nov. 5 meeting.

“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,” Fayetteville Police Chief Scott Gray said at the Oct. 13 meeting and in an Aug. 4 letter.

The ordinance was first considered in August, but underwent multiple changes during collaboration with Drug Free Fayette representatives.

Along with an arrest today for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, current fine amounts include a first offense fine of $1,093 and the second offense of $1,343. There is no current third offense fine amount.

It is noted in the ordinance that state law grants municipal courts concurrent jurisdiction to try and dispose of cases where a person is charged with possession of one ounce or less of marijuana when the offense occurs within city limits.

So what does the ordinance say?

Divided into three sections based on age, the ordinance specifies:

– Minor: Under the age of 18 – First offense: $125 fine, court date required with a parent or legal guardian present and requirement to attend a city-approved 8- hour substance abuse prevention/intervention program to be provided by an organization within Fayette County.

In addition to this program, each individual will receive an assessment to determine if they meet any of the criteria for a cannabis use disorder. Those individuals who do meet such criteria would receive a voluntary referral to a state-certified substance use disorder treatment program.

Second and third offenses within 365 days of original offense – 2nd fine of $250, 3rd offense of $500; on the 2nd and 3rd offenses, $150 can be refundable upon successful completion of a substance abuse program or class with an organization within Fayette County.

Additional offenses during the 365-day period will result in a $500 fine, non-refundable.

– Adult: Under the age of 21 – First offense: $125 fine, court date required and requirement to attend a city-approved 8-hour substance abuse prevention/intervention program to be provided by an organization within Fayette County.

In addition to this program, each individual will receive an assessment to determine if they meet any of the criteria for a cannabis use disorder. Those individuals who do meet such criteria would receive a voluntary referral to a state-certified substance use disorder treatment program.

Second and third offenses within 365 days of original offense – 2nd offense fine of $250, 3rd offense of $500; on the 2nd and 3rd offenses, $150 can be refundable upon successful completion of a substance abuse program or class with an organization within Fayette County.

Additional offenses during the 365-day period will result in $500 fine, non-refundable.

– Adult: Age 21 or older – First offense: $125 fine, no court date required. Second and third offenses within 365 days of the original offense – 2nd offense fine of $250, 3rd offense fine of $500; on the 2nd and 3rd offenses, $150 can be refundable upon successful completion of a court-approved substance abuse program or class provided by an organization within Fayette County.

In addition to this program, each individual will receive an assessment to determine if they meet any of the criteria for a cannabis use disorder. Those individuals who do meet such criteria would receive a voluntary referral to a state-certified substance use disorder treatment program.

Additional offenses during the 365-day period will result in a $500 fine, non-refundable.

Gray at previous meetings emphasized 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 stressed that driving under the influence of any intoxicant, whether alcohol, marijuana or any prescription or illegal drug, is illegal.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’d like to see full decriminalization, weed isn’t any worse than alcohol. We ought to regulate it like we do alcohol to make it harder for teenagers to get their hands on it. It’s still a mind altering drug and not great for developing minds.