Pinellas County Commissioner’s Agree to Hear Marijuana Decriminalization

By Christopher Cano | Executive Director, Central Florida NORML


Last month the City of St. Petersburg entertained the idea of civil citations for marijuana

decriminalization at the behest of Councilman Steve Kornell. Pinellas County was used most

recently as a national example of how marijuana arrest have serious racial disparities. Pinellas

County Commissioner Ken Welch introduced the subject during the final commission meeting

of 2015. Welch said the request stems from concerns that there are more arrests of minorities

and arrests made in certain areas of the county for marijuana possession. He is interested in

exploring alternatives and the possibility of a countywide ordinance that would address these

concerns. “There’s a disparity,” Welch said. “We need to do something about it.”

Other members of the Pinellas Commission are receptive to the idea. Commissioner

Dave Eggers said he would like more information and Commissioner Karen Seel suggests

scheduling a workshop. Pinellas Clerk of the Court Ken Burke says that other Florida Counties

such as Leon and Hernando are talking about the use of civil citations for minor possession

charges. He has suggested forming a small task force to explore the alternatives and include

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and State Attorney Bernie McCabe on it. Sheriffs in Florida have not been

open to marijuana legalization. The Florida Sheriffs Association was a leading voice against

2014’s Medical Marijuana Amendment sponsored by United for Care.

Tampa City Council is set to discuss this same issue on February 18th. Unfortunately,

Chair of Pinellas County Commission, Charlie Justice, said he would be “happy to do a

workshop,” but that the January and February workshop schedule was full. Therefore, this

spring will be the most crucial time for cannabis activists to fill city hall and county chambers


By Christopher Cano, Canna-Chronicle Staff Writer, Executive Director-Central Florida NORML