TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The mayor of Tampa is in favor of it and so is the chief of police: The decriminalization of pot within city limits. As it stands right now, if you’re caught with pot in Tampa, you could face jail time, a big fine and the loss of your license.
Council members passed the ordinance to change that by a 6-to-1 vote with councilman Charlie Miranda the sole opponent.
The council listened to about 20 people during public comment. Most were in favor of the change, but a few people voiced their opposition to the ordinance.
The council will take up the matter once again and cast a final vote on March 17 at 9:30 a.m. Under the measure, people who possess 20 grams or less of marijuana will be issued a $75 citation for the first offense, a $150 citation for the second offense, and $450 citation for three or more offenses.
Under the measure, possession of 20 grams or less would no longer be classified as a misdemeanor criminal offense. Possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana would still be classified as a felony criminal offense.
“This is not a get out of jail free card,” Tampa Police Department Chief Eric Ward said. “This is to target those first time offenders that made a mistake and giving them the opportunity not to get into that criminal process.”
But, a founding member and pioneer with the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance isn’t happy about what she heard at the city council meeting.
“When you talk about second chances, we don’t mean third, fourth, fifth, sixth,” she told News Channel 8. “The way the ordinance (is) written right now, they can get a citation multiple times, and there’s no requirement for any assessment, education or treatment. That’s what concerns us.”