DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (WOFL FOX 35) - Daytona Beach is now looking to lessen the penalties for those caught with small amounts of marijuana, a topic gaining momentum across central Florida.
Volusia County is on board, and on Monday, Orlando's city council gave initial approval for 20 grams of marijuana to come with a code violation and $50 fine.
On Wednesday night Daytona Beach city commissioners agreed they should vote whether to change city law. If you're caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana it would be considered a city ordinance violation instead of a second degree misdemeanor.
"We need to keep something in mind here. 20 Grams of marijuana is equivalent to 20-30 joints," explained Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood. Chitwood said under the current rules Daytona police have the option of charging someone with less than 20 grams. If it's a person's first offense, the officer can make an arrest, give a ticket or do nothing. It's up to the officer.
In the new plan, if the suspect has a prior conviction or is accused of another crime along with marijuana possession, they would face drug charges.
Those suspected of having more than 20 grams of marijuana would face felony charges. Chief Chitwood says marijuana possession should be taken seriously. "The other thing that worries me, when you look at all the juvenile delinquency issues we have here and every city in America, it begins with marijuana usage," Chitwood said. "It's the gateway drug to delinquency, to truancy, to petty crimes and to harder drugs."
Volusia County passed a similar ordinance earlier this month. If busted in the county offenders have 30 days to pay a $100 fine to the Clerk of the Court.
Chief Chitwood says it's a fine line between clogging up the courts and jails with minor marijuana arrests and stopping potential drug problems before they get out of control. "While I applaud what they're trying to do, it seems we are going to have to balance the scale here," Chitwood said.
We reached out to the city spokeswoman for Daytona Beach Thursday, she referred us to Chief Chitwood.