Pot, paraphernalia laws to be put before council

Updated: Jun. 17, 2019 at 9:43 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would remove jail time as a punishment for first-time possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

Instead, a first-time offender would receive a “summons” or ticket compelling an appearance in court.

Any fine imposed would not exceed $100.

“I am grateful we are at this point,” said Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, who first asked for a modification of the law in May.

The ordinance also would ask that the municipal court develop a path “by which those persons charged with only a first offense of simple possession of marijuana will be fast-tracked through the court process, may pursue non-adjudication of said charge, would receive counseling and, where appropriate in the opinion of the municipal court judge, referral for treatment.”

Hattiesburg Police Chief Anthony Parker said the proposed law fairly mirrors his department’s standard operating procedures.

“Since Jan. 1, we’ve had 30 instances, and in 24, we issued citations for simple marijuana possession,” Parker said. “We had six arrests and that was because there were other charges involved.”

“So, this is already the policy we’re following?” Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Dryden asked. “We’re just setting it down in writing?”

“Pretty much, yes ma’am,” Parker said.

The ordinance was twinned with another aimed at amending the sale of paraphernalia. The new law would prevent the sale of paraphernalia within 750 feet of a church, school, kindergarten or preschool.

State code says it is “unlawful” to “deliver, sell, possess with intent to deliver or sell or manufacture with intent to deliver or sell paraphernalia, knowing or under the circumstances, where one should know, that it will be used to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance.”

Vendors would have to keep paraphernalia out of sight of the public and could not sell such to anyone under 18-years-old.

“Council has been made aware of items which are primarily designed and intended for use with illegal drugs being offered for sale with the city limits of Hattiesburg and the Council is particularly concerned that such items are being displayed in a manner that attempts to glamorize these products and make them attractive to teenagers and young adults,” the preamble to the ordinance states.

Violation of the ordinance could be punished by a fine up to $500 or up to 90 days in jail.

If passed, both ordinances would go into effect 30 days after passage.

“I think both of these ordinances, together, paraphernalia and the 30-gram ordinance, work in tandem to modernize the City of Hattiesburg’s approach to drug policy, by using best policy and just good, common sense,” Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said.

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