The Leon County Commissioners on Tuesday decided to hold a workshop in September on the marijuana ordinance that was passed last November. The decision comes after two lawsuits were filed, one by residents and another by businesses who said they’re not ready for marijuana legalization.

The “programs for homeless adults” is a workshop that will be held by the Leon County Commissioners. The workshop will cover topics such as homelessness, housing and education.

Leon commissioners schedule marijuana workshop, pause on homeless shelter and CRTPA proposals

Commissioners in Leon County have set a session for this spring to look at alternatives to arrest for those arrested with minor quantities of marijuana. 

The problem has been on the wish list for some years, and a 2018 initiative started by State Attorney Jack Campbell targeted at issuing civil tickets for such infractions has already had some results. 

Nonetheless, Campbell is expected to attend Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil and county commissioners on March 22 to discuss ongoing attempts to lower punishment for marijuana possession. 

On the same day, McNeil will attend a training to discuss bail, reintegration strategies, and a review of the County’s electronic monitoring program.

McNeil’s committee has been looking at monetary bail and Leon County’s pretrial release program for years.

Commissioners may make suggestions to law enforcement authorities about what options they would like to see in marijuana regulations, but prosecutorial and police discretion is frequently left to the discretion of the prosecutor and officer.

 

The Florida Legislature and the federal government would have to make any changes to the legislation. 

Despite numerous states permitting medical marijuana usage, such as Florida, or authorizing its recreational use by adults, such as Colorado, marijuana is still classified as a “Schedule I” drug by the federal government, and selling marijuana remains a federal felony. 

The Leon County Commission approved a mostly symbolic motion in 2019 to go ahead with a legislation making small-scale marijuana possession a civil infraction. It’s essentially a policy that encourages law enforcement to think about alternatives to arrest.

Before the vote, then-County Attorney Herb Thiele informed commissioners, “We cannot legalize marijuana in Leon County.” “We don’t have the power to tell law enforcement authorities what to do.”

Aside from that:

Shelters for the homeless are being built.

Commissioners delayed modifications to land development rules that would have created additional stopgaps in the process of establishing a temporary residential facility, including greater community engagement and coordination with the Big Bend Continuum of Care (CoC).

The regional coordinating organization often assists in securing resources, but the ordinance, which has been placed on hold until December, would give the group a more active role in determining the need for and placement of a homeless shelter. Around Tallahassee, the CoC serves eight counties. 

A variety of policy measures relating to the homeless population in Tallahassee and Leon County will be presented before the board next month, according to County Administrator Vince Long. Management and a regulatory framework for the county’s role in the solution are among them. 

City Walk Urban Mission shelter on Mahan Drive Thursday, July 29, 2021.

 

A request by a shelter to come into the community would be subject to substantial local consultation, as well as a recommendation from the CoC, which would assess need and suggest security and staffing levels. A statement of purpose, rationale, and necessity would be required of each application.

Before submitting a proposal for the establishment of a transitional residential facility in the county, staff wrote, “this will ensure that applicants communicate with the CoC and demonstrate that the proposed development has addressed other concerns such as, but not limited to, adequate staffing, proper security measures, and a sufficient financial plan.”  

Leon County has never had an unincorporated area applicant for a shelter, although it is a cost and resource sharing partner with the city of Tallahassee. City Walk Urban Mission has been embroiled in a legal struggle with the city when it first debuted as a chilly night shelter last year, then discreetly shifted to a full-time temporary building on Mahan Drive without necessary permits.

 

The shelter eventually attempted, but failed, to rezone the site as a permanent transitional residential facility.  

County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, whose district contains the City Walk property, believes the law is premature until the city is in a position to make parallel improvements.

“We need to make sure there are alignments across the board, not only on land development restrictions,” she said. “We’ve made more steps this year than we have in a long time,” he says, “but I’m afraid that (partnership) with the city isn’t as strong as it needs to be in the future.”

The CRTPA’s reorganization has been placed on hold.

Commissioners also unanimously agreed to put on hold a vote to hand up a part of their voting power to the Capital Regional Transportation Planning Agency in response to a request from the agency’s head, Greg Slay. Any decision would be made in January at the earliest.

They were warned by a previous commissioner that doing so would be a decision that could not be reversed.

The CRTPA is now made up of representatives from Leon, Gadsden, Jefferson, and Wakulla counties, as well as the city of Tallahassee. The panel consists of three Leon County and Tallahassee commissioners, as well as one Leon County School Board member.

The proposal proposes switching from a weighted voting system to a single member, single vote system, with the school board member functioning as a non-voting advising member solely.

The revisions, according to Slay, will have no bearing on the next vote on the contentious Thomasville Road Multi-use Path, which would link Midtown to Market Square. Any new voting mechanism would need an amendment to the CRTPA rules. The decision on the Thomasville Road walkway plan might be made as early as January. 

The County Commission’s and the city’s local voting authority would be reduced from 74 percent to 60 percent if the modifications are accepted.

According to Gayle Nelson, the first woman elected to the Leon County Commission, who served from 1978 to 1992, doing so would result in less attention being paid to improvements in Leon County and Tallahassee. It also puts each body in a situation where, if there is a split among local boards, it will have to seek permission from neighboring counties.

She compared it to the Legislature’s proposal in 2018 to give the state broader preemption authority, which would empower the state to override CRTPA votes throughout the state.

“I have to wonder, what’s in it for Tallahassee and Leon County residents?” Nelson posed the question to the commissioners. “You claim to have a majority of the council members, but what happens when the city and county disagree?” The state does not have to take away your control in order for you to be in a position to authorize this. You’re going to give us up.”  

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