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Jacksonville City Council rejects proposal to decriminalize pot possession

Jacksonville takes a strong stand against cannabis.

The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday said no to a watered-down cannabis decriminalization bill.

The legislation would have allowed officer discretion in cannabis possession arrests involving less than 20 grams.

The measure failed on a 3-15 vote.

Bill sponsor Garrett Dennis has had real difficulty in a City Hall dominated by Mayor Lenny Curry and proposing relaxed drug laws was a bridge too far for many.

Councilman Al Ferraro had qualms, saying it would make conditions worse in troubled neighborhoods.

“It’s going to attract more … in these areas crying for help. Please do whatever you can to stop this from coming,” Ferraro said.

Like fentanyl, marijuana is a scourge for Ferraro, who is “concerned about it” in the same manner.

Councilman Ron Salem, a druggist by trade, said that beyond children with seizures, cannabis was of no use compared to the trusted world of prescription medicine.

Councilman Aaron Bowman said that opposing decriminalization would send a message to people moving here that Jacksonville is a city of laws, one that stands athwart the devil’s lettuce. 

Bowman suggested that people would drive from elsewhere to partake. The sponsor rejected that logic.

“Never heard of anyone driving across state lines to get high,” Dennis said.

Council President Scott Wilson likewise had “real concern” about the bill, positing that marijuana could be laced with fentanyl.

Though Brenda Priestly-Jackson noted that cannabis arrests have a “disproportionate impact” on “communities of color,” the fentanyl/marijuana connection was too hard to refute for this Council and trumped concerns about law enforcement targeting African-Americans with possession raps.

Polling showed 84 percent support for decriminalization just this year, but clearly no members of the City Council were canvassed.

Jacksonville’s Council is bucking a trend of decriminalization throughout the state, which is reflected in two separate bills in the U.S. House of Representatives filed by Florida Republicans, each seeking to move cannabis to Schedule III.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at

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