Tampa City Council Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession: UPDATE

Back in the beginning of March I wrote about the Tampa City Council’s debate on an ordinance that would decriminalize marijuana possession. Today, the City Council vote in favor of decriminalization and to send the ordinance to Mayor Bob Buckhorn for his signature – the final step for it to become official. Here’s a copy of the ordinance.

Nothing about the hearing and vote today answered my questions about whether the ordinance is discretionary, or how it will affect search and seizure cases where probable cause is built on the “odor of marijuana.” Those questions will have to be answered by the courts as cases come up.

But here’s an important wrinkle in all this: the new ordinance is only good if you’re inside the city limits. Once you’re outside the city limits the ordinance doesn’t apply, and you’re SOL if you get caught with marijuana or paraphernalia. Here is a map of Tampa’s city limits: Once you get in the USF area and northward, Tampa’s city limits almost look like they’ve been gerrymandered. There’s actually no way to drive from the northernmost point in the city limits all the way to downtown without going outside them. That’s not been a problem before, but it could be now if you’re riding at least slightly dirty. It will be interesting to see how the new ordinance effects criminal possession and search and seizure cases.

Reminder: just because the City Council voted today this does not mean marijuana is legal inside the city limits. The ordinance has to be signed by the mayor first. Also, Section 893.13(6)(b), Florida Statutes is still on the books that says possession of 20 grams or less is a first-degree misdemeanor crime.