Buzz Kill: Deputies and troopers will arrest for pot in Tampa

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office still plans to make arrests if deputies find you carrying a small amount of giggle weed, even if they bag you within the city of Tampa.

In terms of enforcing a new ordinance decriminalizing possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana, city council chair Mike Suarez believes Tampa has created a doughnut hole.

“Let’s talk about Tampa stadium. They’re at a football game, they have a small amount of pot, a sheriff’s deputy, is he going to follow the city ordinance or the county ordinance, I’m not sure about that,” councilor Suarez said.

The new ordinance allows Tampa police officers discretion whether to issue a civil citation or make an arrest.

“What we’re doing is, we’re operating within the framework of state law. So state law at this level of a misdemeanor allows you to have a fine as opposed to jail time, that’s allowed under state law,” added Suarez.

The city has the right to pass an ordinance that decides how it governs people within its borders. What it won’t control is other agencies. When it comes to possession of weed in Hillsborough County, the sheriffs office plans to follow state statute and according to Sgt. Steve Gaskins, so does the Florida Highway Patrol. In an email Sgt. Gaskins wrote, “20 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor… whether or not a notice to appear or physical arrest occurs is officer discretion.”

“I can definitely see a potential of defendants coming in and making comparisons,” said Cooley Law School associate professor Karen Fultz.

Prosecutors are discussing the new ordinance with law enforcement.

“If the sheriff’s office or the highway patrol or whatever agency, does issue a criminal charge on a marijuana within the city limits of Tampa and they refer it to us, we will treat it as a criminal charge just like we always have,” said Hillsborough State Attorney spokesman Mark Cox.

What will be interesting to watch is who is charged and who receives a civil citation.

“Whenever you allow for discretion there is always the possibility of abuse,” said Karen Fultz.OTHER TOP CLICKED STORIES PEOPLE ARE CLICKING ON:

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