Pubdate: Thu, 10 Mar 2016
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2016 The Tribune Co.
Author: Teresa Miller


Voting 6-1, the Tampa City Council is considering a civil citation 
for persons over 21 who are arrested with 20 grams or less of 
marijuana. The intent of this citation is to potentially prevent a 
person from getting a criminal record for possessing pot, and to save 
our county money in court and jail costs. It was suggested that 
minority groups are being arrested at higher rates for possession and 
impacting their ability to get a job in the future.

Drug use impacts any person's ability to get a job far more than 
their arrest record.

Several suggestions were offered to help make this citation an avenue 
for reducing future drug use and criminal activity. Recommendations 
included reducing the amount to 10 grams and adding assessments, 
educational classes, community service and treatment services when 
necessary. This type of highly structured sanction program has proven 
to be successful in reducing substance abuse and future arrests in 
other communities.

We are giving the key to our city to pot smokers and drug dealers. 
After four arrests, clearly a person is not heading toward a path of 
successful employment. But the real question is this: Who is this 
going to help the most? Not the poor and minorities, because they 
can't afford to pay the fees.

So who is going to benefit the most? The wealthy, who will be able to 
"buy off" their arrest? Who is going suffer the most? Our Tampa 
community, which, like Colorado, will be faced with a growing 
unemployment problem and increased rates of school dropouts, 
homelessness, crime and DUIs, just to mention a few consequences.

Given that Hillsborough County ranks second in the state for fatal 
accidents involving drugs, this should be of concern not only to 
Tampa residents but anyone visiting our city.

Charlie Miranda was the only city council member to listen to reason 
and understand the impact this reckless sanction will have to our 
children, families, neighborhoods and highways.

This is not a victimless crime. The new motto of "party now, pay 
later" may be a reality that Tampa will greatly regret.

Teresa Miller


The writer is a community prevention volunteer and creator
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