The Tampa City Council gave final approval Thursday morning to a new law allowing police to fine rather than arrest people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Council members voted 5-1 to adopt the law, which gives police the option to issue a civil citation for possession of up to 20 grams, roughly three-quarters of an ounce, of marijuana. The new law will take effect once it is signed by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who supports the measure.
The law is intended to prevent offenders from winding up with the life-long stigma of a criminal record that can hinder job, scholarship and housing opportunities. Council members previously said it will also free up police and the courts.
Under state law, possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison or probation and a $1,000 file. Offenders can also lose their driving license for up to one year, making it tough to hang onto a job.
Under the new law, offenders in the city limits would face a fine of $75 for a first offense. That rises to $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third and $450 for subsequent violations. [Read more at the Tampa Tribune]