Pubdate: Tue, 03 May 2016
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2016 The Tribune Co.
Author: Geoff Fox, Tribune staff
Page: B1


First Violator Cited Less Than An Hour After Ordinance Took Effect

TAMPA - A stripper, a college student and a lawn maintenance worker
were among the first people issued civil citations for possessing
small amounts of marijuana since April 1, police records show.

Tampa City Council members on March 17 voted 5-1 to adopt the
ordinance, intended to prevent offenders from having the lifelong
stigma of a criminal record that can hinder job, scholarship and
housing opportunities.

Council members said it will also free up police and the courts.
Nearly 1,900 arrests made by Tampa police last year included charges
of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In the ordinance's first month, Tampa police issued 81 civil citations
for marijuana possession, records show.

Less than an hour after the ordinance took effect, Hiram Lonnell
Jackson, 28, a lawn-maintenance worker who was riding in a car that
got pulled over near 40th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard,
was issued a citation for marijuana.

Jackson was the passenger in a car driving without its lights on,
Tampa police said; when officers approached the car, they could smell

An initial pat down of Jackson didn't turn up any weapons, so he was
placed in the back of a patrol car while officers investigated,
records show. However, police said, when Jackson got out of the patrol
car, a baggie containing a small amount of marijuana fell from his

Jackson attempted to hide the weed under his foot, but he was issued a
citation and released on his own recognizance, records said.

Before April 1, possession of 20 grams of marijuana or less in Tampa
was a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison
or probation and a $1,000 fine.

Offenders also could have lost their driver's license for up to one

Under the new ordinance, offenders face a fine of $75 for a first
offence. That rises to $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third and
$450 for a subsequent violation.

It was unclear if all of the people issued civil citations in April
were first-time offenders.

Even under the new ordinance, people found with small amounts of
marijuana can still wind up in jail.

According to a legal bulletin sent to Tampa police officers by
attorney Kirby Rainsberger, civil citations of up to 20 grams of
marijuana will be issued only when:

o The subject is 18 or older.

o No other criminal charges are applicable from the same

o The subject is qualified for release on his or her own

o The subject has no prior unpaid civil citations.

Besides facing possible civil citations, those who police find with
less than 20 grams of marijuana will also lose their stash, as police
will confiscate it.

People who are found with marijuana while driving can also be charged
with driving under the influence, if they are found to be impaired by
the drug.

Just after 9 a.m. April 1, Skyra Lawrence Harper, 35, who works in the
accounts receivable department at Ultimate Medical Academy, was
sitting with a group of people at a table behind Friendly Meat and
Grocery on 34th Street, records said.

As officers approached, Harper said: 'Yeah, I've got weed,' and
police, who noticed that she was in the process of rolling a joint,
issued a citation, records show.

On April 3, Tampa police said they confiscated a 'blunt' each from
Jose Carde, 21, a student at Hillsborough Community College, and
Thalia Arabihernandez, 22, who were in a car near Himes Avenue and
Marcum Street. An officer had been dispatched to the area on a
narcotics complaint.

Carde and Arabihernandez each turned over a blunt - a hollowed-out
cigar filled with marijuana - and were issued citations, police said;
more marijuana was taken from inside Carde's car.

Just before midnight on April 4, Marie Joy Carlson, a stripper at The
Penthouse Club on Westshore Boulevard, was pulled over by police after
she failed to yield right of way to an officer near Armenia Avenue and
Spruce Street, records show.

The officer smelled marijuana in Carlson's vehicle, but she said she
had not smoked marijuana in it for 24 hours, records show. However,
officers found the remnants of two joints in the front center console
of her vehicle; she was issued a citation for marijuana and a traffic
citation for failure to yield right of way, records show.

In all, those caught with small amounts of marijuana in Tampa in April
will pay over $5,250 in fines.

Much of the money does not go to the city, said Andrea Davis, a Tampa
police spokeswoman.

'It's not a revenue generator,' she said. 'The majority of the money
we get from citations goes to the state and the clerk's office.'
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