Bills to establish a simple citation for those caught possessing small amounts of cannabis – rather than a mandate of being arrested and charged with a criminal act – take full effect today in the Florida city of Tampa, and the Florida county of Volusia.
Under Tampa’s law, those caught possessing up to 20 grams of cannabis will be given a $75 citation for their first offense, a $150 citation for their second offense and a $300 citation for third and subsequent offenses. Volusia County’s law is similar, though the fine is set at $100. Similar laws have been passed in Florida’s largest county, Miami-Dade, as well as in Broward County, Key West, West Palm beach and Hallandale Beach.
Before the enactment of these laws, those caught possessing up to 20 grams of cannabis would be charged with a misdemeanor and put in jail for up to a year. Unfortunately these new laws still give officers the discretion to arrest an individual under state law – a change activists must work to change – though the police chiefs of both the county and city are in support of the new laws, indicating that officers may issue more tickets than arrests.
Tampa is the 3rd most populated city in Florida and the 53rd most populated city in the U.S., with a population of around 330,000. Volusia County has a population of around half a million.