North Charleston would stop denying taxi licenses to those with drug possession convictions that are more than two years old, under a plan City Council unanimously endorsed Thursday.
While one more vote at a future meeting would be required to change the city’s taxi ordinance, no member of City Council has opposed the plan.
Currently, anyone with a drug possession conviction within the past five years, for any drug except marijuana, cannot get a taxi license in North Charleston. Marijuana possession convictions within the past year are also grounds for denial.
The proposed changes, which also adjust some fees and inspection regulations, would cut the look-back period for past drug use to two years, while keeping the one-year rule for marijuana.
“We opened it up so that more people can become taxi drivers,” Councilman Michael Brown said at a meeting Thursday night.
The current rule on prior drug use is the same standard used for police officers, according to city officials.
“We gave (the regulations) some time to see what works, what didn’t and what we needed to be a little more flexible with,” said Julie Elmore, special assistant to Mayor Keith Summey, earlier this week.
The current taxi regulations came from a 2009 effort to address what the city said were complaints about dirty and poorly maintained cabs, taxi drivers who overcharged out-of-town visitors, and even cabs being used to facilitate criminal activity.
The following year drivers complained that they were being repeatedly stopped and fined $500 for minor infractions, such as having a messy car. The city later reduced the fine for violations from $500 to $100, and eased restrictions about prior DUI convictions.
On Thursday Councilwoman Dot Williams told Mayor Keith Summey that the city’s current taxi inspector, Patrick Pontieri, is doing a good job.
“I have not heard one complaint since you put him on board,” she said.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.