Monday’s city council meeting went longer than usual, as a discussion on Mayor Buddy Dyer‘s controversial new marijuana proposition from last week drew out a crowd animatedly for and against the proposal.

The proposal, Dyer stressed, isn’t making marijuana legal. Instead, it just gives police in the city a third option when they find someone with the drug on them – rather than arresting them or just warning them, the police would have the option to issue a citation and a $50 fine.

Many residents who came out thought the measure either went too far or didn’t go far enough. Many were concerned about a clause in the proposal that allows police to use their own discretion on whether to arrest someone for marijuana or give them a citation.

That clause, the opponents said, would only give into more of the same discrimination against black or Hispanic residents, who are statistically arrested more often for marijuana possession as compared to white people.

Police Chief John Mina said they would do their best not to allow discrimination against minorities. He said they would work to put a policy in place where officers would have to give reasons why they arrested a suspect rather than giving a citation.

But that wasn’t enough to soothe the anger of the public. Many of them just do not trust the Orlando Police Department – a fact they made abundantly clear in the public comments that followed.

“Trust for the Orlando Police Department is at an all-time low,” said National Action Nework president Lawanna Gelzer. “Communities of color are policed by ZIP code. We want fair and equal treatment. We do not trust the Orlando Police Department.”

Fellow local resident Robert Campbell said that as a father, he was opposed to the ordinance altogether. Marijuana, he said, should be completely outlawed.

“This is a slippery slope toward decriminalization of marijuana,” he said. “When you have a law like this, you give the impression that it is okay to use more of it.”

Campbell went on to cite sources he had found that claimed the legalization of marijuana in Colorado had caused rises in crime and homelessness.

Another speaker, Hope Phillips, said she was a parent, too, and had raised her children in Colorado for several years. That, she believed, had been a good experience for her children.

“I’d rather raise my kids where [marijuana] is not illegal,” she said. “You start talking with your kids at a much younger age about the pros and cons of marijuana. I don’t see it as a negative at all.”

After hearing over an hour and a half of public comments, the council weighed in and finally voted. District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill said she understood the concerns about the police being asked to use discretion when deciding whether to arrest or give a citation. She said she hoped they could have some level of transparency to review who was arrested and why, to make sure officers weren’t arresting suspects solely on the basis of race.

Then she shifted gears to talk about the way some members of the public had addressed the council, which she felt to be inflammatory.

“There are some people who come before the council claiming to be the voice of their community,” she said. “They’re really just the voice of their own self-serving agenda. They’re nothing but street performers who say we’re not doing anything for the community.”

District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan recalled a personal experience when she had been interviewing an older woman for a job at the city. The woman told Sheehan that she had been arrested for drugs when she was younger.

“She was an older white woman,” Sheehan said. “She didn’t fit any of my stereotypes. She said [the arrest] had followed her for her entire career. She was grateful that I gave her a chance, and she became one of my best employees.”

Sheehan went on to say the drug war had failed and that banning drugs wouldn’t do anything.

“There are always consequences,” she said. “We got rid of pill mills, and we created a heroin epidemic, with a rise in new HIV and AIDS cases. The war on drugs doesn’t work, and it was designed to prosecute minority communities.”

District 1 Commissioner Jim Gray was opposed to the ordinance because he thought it didn’t fit under the jurisdiction of what they had been appointed to do as commissioners. He said he had heard the narrative that marijuana arrests ruin someone’s life many times, but that he didn’t personally buy into it.

“If you made a mistake when you were young and you’ve turned your life around, I’d want to hire you,” he said. “If you had six more arrests after that, not so much.”

The final vote came down 4 to 3 in favor for the proposal moving forward for a second reading, with Dyer being the deciding vote. Commissioners Gray, Tony Ortiz and Samuel Ings were against it, and Dyer, Sheehan, Hill and Robert Stuart were for it.

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