Hillsborough County Commissioners voted to decriminalize possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana. In lieu of being arrested, those possessing 20 grams or less will receive a civil citation instead. The new ordinance is nearly exact to Tampa’s decriminalization ordinance.
The county will focus more on education and prevention instead, the Tampa Bay Times reported. There is a limit to the number of civil citations that can be issued before it becomes a criminal offense. After 4 civil citations, violators will face criminal marijuana possession charges.
When 3 citations are issued to a single offender, drug screening, treatment programs and education will be required to be completed by the offender.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said, “Now it doesn’t matter where you’re at, or who the law enforcement officer is, it’s the same. The enforcement will be the same, the penalty will be the same, and we’ll have a more fair and equitable process throughout the entire county.”
The new ordinance applies to those ages 18 and older. Fines are on a sliding scale with the maximum being $500. Community service can be completed instead of paying a fine. The ordinance is expected to be enacted in the very near future.