Volusia County may decriminalize smalls amounts of marijuana

Volusia County Councilman Josh Wagner wants to bring forward a resolution that would decriminalize marijuana, and he has received some initial support for his idea. Wagner wonders if jail is the best place for people found with less than 20 grams of pot.

"My philosophy is: do we even need that in this day and age? Statistically, people aren't dying over smoking a joint. I mean that's just the reality."

Under his proposal, deputies in unincorporated Volusia County would still be able to arrest someone found with marijuana, but they could also give a citation instead, according to Councilman Wagner.

"To give the officer on the scene to make the discretion of ... does this person need to go into a criminal court, or is this a situation where it's a joint, something minor, and they can pay a civil citation and be done with it."

Wagner hopes a ticket would increase people's chances at being successful in life, since a small amount of pot would no longer give people a permanent record.

"It's still a criminal activity, but over time, it's gotten lessened even on its own, so why not just take it one step more and just not have that whole go through the criminal process for something that society views as minor. Not everyone, but overall if you did a poll they would probably support something like this."

Councilman Wagner says he has seen the effects of those minor arrests on people's lives when he worked as a State Attorney in the Misdemeanor Division, and believes it will help race relations as well.

"You see it with your own eyes the racial impact and the socioeconomic impact of how the criminal justice system works."

If Volusia did decriminalize, Wagner thinks it will save the County, Sheriff's Office, and court system money.

"We are in a time where the state is not bringing in a lot of judges. The budget just isn't there."

He hopes to have the County Attorney draft an ordinance similar to cities in South Florida that have already made the move, then have the Council vote in the next two months. Two Council members and the Chairman told the Daytona Beach News Journal they would likely support such a move.