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Bob Buckhorn poised to sign law decriminalizing marijuana in Tampa

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The City of Tampa will join other towns across the nation in attempting to fight back on the war on drugs.

On second hearing, the City Council on Thursday voted 5-1 to approve a new ordinance that decriminalizes the possession of marijuana.

Tampa Police officers will now have the discretion of writing up a citation for anybody caught with less than 20 grams of pot. A first offense would be $75. A second would be $150, a third $300 and a fourth would be $450.

“I intend to sign it,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told FloridPolitics.com earlier this month. “As a matter of fact, my administration introduced it. I think it’s the right thing; I think it will save a lot of young people from becoming statistics by virtue of a youthful mistake.”

Buckhorn says he understand the concerns of the Tampa Tribune editorial board, who have derided the ordinance as “a risky plan,” likely to lead to more drug use in the city.

“This in no way makes the city more or less anti-drug, but I do think that we’ve lost nearly a generation of in particular young African-Americans who were scarred because of low-level marijuana offenses, so I think it’s the right thing.”

The Tribune chastised the council regarding the proposed ordinance, saying that citizens should only get two strikes against them before possibly facing jail time. Florida law calls for a penalty to up to one year in prison or probation and a $1,00 fine for possession of 20 grams on less.

“I think we’re going to do the best we can to intervene in their lives,” replies Buckhorn. “So I think that the vast majority of them will have one experience, two experiences maybe, and then stop the behavior without having an adult record and moving forward without being able to get a job or do anything else. So I think in the scheme of things, when you balance the long-term impact of a youthful arrest and a record vs. the offense itself, then I think this is the right choice.”

The lone dissenting vote against the proposed ordinance was Councilman Charlie Miranda. Harry Cohen was away from the dais when the vote was taken.

Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties have already passed similar measures.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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