Tampa votes to decriminalize marijuana

FILE -(AP Photo/Jim Mone,File)
FILE -(AP Photo/Jim Mone,File)

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – The City of Tampa passed an ordinance Thursday that will lessen the punishment for possessing marijuana within city limits. The city council passed the measure with a vote of 5 to 1.

People caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana will face a lesser punishment.

“Today we have an opportunity to do what’s right and what’s good for the citizens in this community,” Councilman Frank Reddick said.

The intent of the ordinance is to help young people who make mistakes.

“What we’re attempting to do is put a stop to that pipeline to prison that affect so many of our young people, especially our young people of color,” Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said.

Before the ordinance, people were charged with a misdemeanor if caught with 20 grams or less or marijuana. You could face jail time or the loss of your license.

Now, those caught with 20 grams or less of pot will instead pay a citation – almost like getting a traffic ticket.

“I don’t feel what we did today is different than what a lot of cities are doing and as a country as we’re moving nationally,” Montelione said.

Mom of three Ellen Snelling said there should be a cap on the number of times someone is caught. She used her daughter’s struggle with marijuana as an example.

“Arrest is not the end of the world. My daughter was arrested; she went to juvenile drug court. She’s doing great today. She’s drug free,” Snelling said. “When somebody is using a substance that is addictive and can be abused, just paying a fine is not going to help them.”

Under the measure, people who possess 20 grams or less of marijuana will be issued a $75 citation for the first offense and a $150 citation for the second offense. Citations will be $300 or more for additional offenses.

Charlie Miranda was the only council member to vote against the ordinance.

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