Tampa police Chief Eric Ward supports civil citations for small amounts of marijuana.
The City of Tampa is on the verge of taking steps to reform the criminal justice system
When it comes to cannabis prohibition. Much like Miami-Dade, Miami Beach, Fernandina
Beach, and Hallandale Beach which all launched citation programs last year, the Tampa City
Council voted 6-0 to discuss the matter on February 18th. Public attendance and comment at
the meeting is highly encouraged.
This matter is significant since in December the St. Petersburg City Council brought up
the same issue and resolved to discuss it further while seeking collaboration from the county
and surrounding municipalities. This would a great step in serving to unclog the criminal justice
system in this county and remove the monetarization of local Drug Courts.
While the Mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn, has expressed support for the civil citation
program he still stands against the legalization of cannabis. This mixed bag of positions will
undoubtedly be reflective in the policies presented to the council and will require a push from
the re-legalization to do what they can in our own backyard.
The issue of citation issuance is a major civil rights issue in Tampa. The Tampa Police
Department is currently under Federal investigation for its bicycle citation program. This
program issued citations to residents who did not have adequate lighting, reflectors, or other
safety equipment on their bicycles. Unfortunately, the Tampa Police issued nine out of every
ten citations to African Americans. These clear disparities and examples of institutionalized
racism at TPD will only be further reflected in the cannabis citation program. Any real reform
needs to begin with the culture at the department itself.
By Christopher Cano, Canna-Chronicle Staff Writer & Executive Director, Central Florida NORML