Like a zombie rising from the grave, discussion of amending the city’s marijuana ordinance returned to the McComb board of selectmen Tuesday night.
Selectman Ronnie Brock raised the possibility of limiting the penalty for first-offense possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana to a fine of $100 to $150, which is smaller than the state’s limits of $100 to $250.
For the second offense, he broached the possibility of installing a $250 maximum fine, instead of the $250 to $1,000 in state law, and a maximum 10-day jail sentence rather than a maximum six months.
Asked his opinion on those changes, City Judge Brandon Frazier noted that the city has ordinances on possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle as well as drug possession, which now are largely similar to state law. Most charges are brought under state law, he said.
Where city ordinances and state law conflict or might in the future, “I would have to interpret then,” Frazier said. “It would be improper to make a ruling now.”
Board attorney Angela Cockerham, who also is a state representative, said local ordinances that set limits within the limits set by the state are usually acceptable.
She said she would draft an ordinance with the additional language sought by Brock and offer it for consideration soon.
Brock also questioned whether first-time, small-possession charges were being kept out of state and national databases and expunged after two years as the law provides.
Frazier said that was taken care of by the court clerks, and he could not answer that question.
Cockerham said, when last checked, the city court was following proper procedures on submitting reports to the proper places, but that those charged would have to file for expungement, which is not automatic.
Selectman Donovan Hill, who has championed overhaul of the marijuana possession ordinance since the term of office started last July, said some charges are not supposed to be submitted to federal databases. In the local system, police and court personnel can check prior offenses to see what the proper charge should be for some offenses.
Brock also questioned why the minimum fine for simple possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is listed in city documents as $427.75, when the law stipulates fines of $100 to $250.
“There is a state assessment on all offenses,” Frazier said. “I can reduce the city’s fine to zero, but by law I cannot reduce the state assessment.
“The auditor said, even when charges are made under the city ordinance, we have to charge the state assessment. If I reduce the fine below the state assessment, the city will get a bill.”
He noted that the city had gotten and paid a bill from the state for a fine that a former judge mistakenly lowered too far.
“The state wants their assessments,” Frazier said.