Hattiesburg considers ordinance with no jail time for marijuana possession of less than 30 grams

The Hattiesburg City Council is expected to consider an ordinance next month that does not impose jail time for anyone charged with possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana.

The City Council also received a draft ordinance regulating the sale of items considered drug paraphernalia in Hattiesburg.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado presented a draft ordinance to the City Council on Monday night, calling for no term of imprisonment for simple possession of marijuana. Simple possession is defined as 30 grams – a little more than one ounce – or less.

Delgado had hoped to have City Attorney Randy Pope examine the draft ordinance for its legality before being presented to the City Council on May 20. However, the introduction of the finished ordinance was delayed until June 6.

Delgado said she has been working on the ordinance for about a year.

“We have had a public meeting about it,” she said. “I have tried to tweak (the ordinance) based upon discussions we have had and based upon discussions we have had in the public meeting. It is certainly modeled after the Jackson ordinance (which is in effect), but it is different.”

The draft ordinance said, “It is in the City’s best interest to provide local law enforcement with the ability to charge individuals in simple possession of Marijuana with an offense that neither unfairly stigmatizes the offender(s), no creates an undue burden on the City in regards to jail costs.”

The draft ordinance also calls for a penalty of not more than $100 and no jail time.

Hattiesburg Chief Executive Officer Ann Jones presented the draft ordinance defining drug paraphernalia and regulating the sale of certain items. She told the City Council the ordinance sets up a licensing system.

“It does not limit the sale of what paraphernalia is,” she said. “What does this simply does is create a licensure process, establishing a permit process where the business can apply for a business permit for $150 a year.

“There is also language in this document that precludes sales of these items to anyone younger than 21 years old. … There is language that restricts the open display of the items without ‘the intervention of a store employee.’”

Anyone who violates the ordinance would be guilty of a misdemeanor and face a fine of at least $10 and not more than $500, jail time of not more than 90 days or both. Each day of the violation would be a separate offense.

The City Council took the paraphernalia ordinance under advisement.

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