Tampa city council considers decriminalization of marijuana

The City of Tampa is one step closer to decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
 
City attorneys said under the current system a person caught having 20-grams or less of marijuana is arrested and put into the criminal justice system.  The violation could also mean jail time for the offender. 
 
A proposed ordinance would mean a $75 ticket for a first time offender under the city's civil system.  The fine would be $150 for a second offense.
 
City council members heard a draft of the ordinance on Thursday.  Residents interested on both sides of the issue packed council chambers on Thursday morning.
 
"It cost me tens of thousands of dollars, it cost me a hit publicly as far as reputation and I'm not a criminal," said Christopher Cano.
 
Cano said people shouldn't have to pay consequences for being arrested once on a marijuana charge.
 
Teresa Miller spoke out against the ordinance.  She said the proposed ordinance sends the wrong message.
 
"Our chief concern is that children and young adults will get the wrong message," said Miller.
 
Chief Eric Ward said he supports the measure.  
 
"The ultimate goal of this civil process is to give people an opportunity not to get incarcerated, not to get that criminal record," said Ward.
 
The city council will hear a full reading of the ordinance on March 3.