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Tampa likely to lessen marijuana penalities

Posted at 2:27 PM, Mar 03, 2016
Leaders in Tampa approved the first reading of an ordinance to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
 
Tampa City councilors passed the ordinance 6 to 1 making 20 grams or less of marijuana a civil citation with a $75 fine instead of a criminal charge.  The fines increase with every citation-- $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third and $450 for each additional offense.
Currently, city attorneys say 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. 
 
Last month, Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward told Action News 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.
 
Council will hear a second reading of the ordinance on March 17, where it's likely to be adopted.
 
IN-DEPTH
 
"There's days where he'll have 400 seizures a day so,” said mom Kayleigh Mills.
 
 Dylan's mom says they've done everything to ease their 8 year old son's pain including cannabis.
 
"That is the scariest part but what do you do when your kid's sick? You'll go to any lengths to save your children,” said mom Mills.
 
Kayleigh Mills is relieved to see Tampa City leaders decriminalize small amounts of marijuana-- criminal charges that have derailed many people's lives.
 
"I was in my mid 20's and I was studying at the University of South Florida,” explained Carlos Hermida.
 
Hermida has three bachelor's degrees, one masters and one misdemeanor marijuana charge on his record.
 
"I was leaving class one day to go get some food and I had a gram of marijuana on me and I was arrested,” he said.
 
"This is talking about giving people a second chance,” said Tampa City Council Chair Frank Reddick.
 
Though Councilors say the ordinance is really aimed at youngsters who make bad choices and minorities disproportionately arrested for marijuana charges, this mom is thankful it may also help her son.
 
"It's chipping away at the bigger issue. It's setting us up for the right path,” said Mills.
 
"This is just an opportunity to perhaps unclog the system a little bit and perhaps not create a record for somebody that's going to follow them with an arrest that will affect them with employment,” said Tampa City Councilor Guido Maniscalco.