Fayetteville City Council clarifies discretion in dismissing misdemeanor marijuana cases

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Council members approve ordinance unanimously

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — (KNWA) Some people in Fayetteville with misdemeanor marijuana cases could see their charges dropped.

The Fayetteville City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that would encourage the city prosecutor to exercise discretion in dismissing misdemeanor criminal cases, with the exception of driving while intoxicated-type cases.

Currently, prosecutors have the option to dismiss cases but that power is not reflected in the city code. The ordinance clarifies discretionary powers for cases of simple possession of marijuana of less than an ounce for private, personal, and adult use.

Several people spoke in favor during public comment.

In 2008, voters approved a ballot measure making misdemeanor marijuana cases the lowest law enforcement priority. But a report shows these type of arrests have not decreased since then.

Mark Kinion, Ward 2, Position 1 city council member, sponsored the ordinance.

“We are not telling anyone what to do. We don’t have any authority over the prosecuting attorney, or the city attorney. We’re not asking for anyone to break the law,” Kinion said. “We were presented some information that showed that there had possibly been some questions by a group about the number of arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.”

A recent study by the Arkansas Justice Collective, a non-profit law firm and advocacy group, revealed an increase in marijuana arrests since 2008. This was after a ballot measure stipulated that marijuana is the lowest priority for Fayetteville Police and prosecutors.

Fayetteville mother Monique Jones showed up in support of the ordinance.

“It was information that resonated with me as a mother being impacted by just simple rules that a prosecutor or a person, even the city council had the right to change,” Jones said.

Jones’ son was in trouble with the law in the 6th grade, and the judge wanted to convict him of a felony. She says she fought to save his future.

“I refused to just take a plea because that would have changed his life. He’s now an electrical engineer, a graduate of Prairie View A&M University, so I’m just glad that I stood up as a mother…to make sure he would not get prosecuted for something simple,” Jones said.

City Attorney Kit Williams said this is as far as any elected officials can go, and only the state legislature can end all arrests and prosecutions for small amounts of marijuana possession.

Other agenda items

The city council passed an ordinance, with amendments, to regulate electric motorized scooters.

A new Natural State law requires cities must allow them later this month.

The City of Fayetteville will allow for up to 500 e-scooters in the city during the first six months of the program.

The scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour.

The ordinance also clarifies where you can and can’t ride the e-scooters.

In addition, the council heard a new ordinance that would help affordable housing around Walker Park in South Fayetteville, and the Rupple Road area.

It would reduce the minimum width of duplexes from 80 feet to 40 feet, and the minimum width of triplexes and fourplexes from 90 feet to 40 feet.

City officials say this change could help with the development of more homes within the city instead of its outskirts

The council left it on its first reading.

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