The Lakeland City Commission held a public forum to discuss how city police should handle people possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana.

  • Forum lasted over four hours
  • More than a dozen people expressed opinions on issue
  • Commission will vote on issue at next meeting

Ultimately, the commission decided to officially vote on the issue during the next commission meeting. A majority of commissioners, however, said they did not want to move forward with crafting the ordinance.
The forum, held the Lakeland Center, lasted more a little more than four hours. More than a dozen people expressed their opinions on the issue.

Eight experts – four on each side of the debate -- addressed the commission before public comment.

The arguments for ...

Michael Thompson, founder of Canna Chronicle, was one of them. He pushed the commission to pass an ordinance that gives officers the option to give people caught with a little bit of marijuana a civil citation.

He told the crowd that when he got caught with marijuana while trying to transport it to his ailing grandmother, it almost ruined his future.

“Even after successfully completing the diversion program and having all my charges dropped, I was unable to join the military," said Thompson. "I was unable to join law enforcement. I couldn't drive for Uber if I wanted to. Just with the arrest on my record, even with all charges dropped, it has had a detrimental affect."

... and against

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens, on the other hand, were among the four people there to explain why the idea would be detrimental to the community.  

“You are being used as a tool for the full legalization of marijuana,” Judd told the commission.
“It is illegal to possess marijuana in any amount and it will remain that way, whether this ordinance is adopted or not,” said Giddens.
“But what we’re not going to stop is people committing a felony every time they purchase it. We’re not going to stop the drug dealers who are selling it and committing a felony every time they sell it. What we are going to do is put Lakeland on a roadmap that I don’t think we want to be on.”
In addition, Giddens said giving people a civil citation for possessing small amounts of marijuana would bring “promiscuity” to the city.
“People will come here because now they can get a citation without the fear of possible arrests, and drug dealers will follow them," said Giddens, "and the crimes associated with drug dealers will come. “

Handle it at the state level?

At the end, Commissioner Justin Troller said he’d like city staff to bring back a report detailing the implications, liabilities, and possible options for putting the issue on the ballot.
The rest of the commissioners then spoke, expressing mostly opposition to moving forward with the idea.
Commissioner Don Selvage thanked Troller for bringing the issue up, but said he wanted to “let the issue die for the time being and see what happens in Tallahassee.”
Commissioner Jim Malless said he needed more time to digest the issue, but he believed the issue should be solved at the state level.
Commissioner Phillip Walker agreed to let the issue die, and said the discussion didn’t waver him.
“I believe it should be over at this point,” said Commissioner Walker.