Lakeland commissioners weigh pot decriminalization

- Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orlando have all done it, and now Lakeland is thinking about possibly decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

At a meeting Friday, several spoke in support of the measure. And several spoke against. In that group, Lakeland Chief of Police Larry Giddens. He said he is against decriminalization, and is especially concerned about young people.

"It's important we send the right message, we're not ruining their lives, we're saving their lives," he said.

Stacey Wainscott disagrees. She said medical issues cause her to be in constant pain, but marijuana offers her a non-opioid pain relief alternative. But when she buys it, she worries.

"It's a matter of being put in jail for a natural medicine," she told FOX 13.

Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs has also made up his mind. He is going to vote "no" on decriminalization.

"I can't think of anything that would change my vote," he told FOX 13.

Commissioner Edie Yates and others said they're concerned if Lakeland decriminalized pot, people who got caught with a small amount would get a ticket and a fine. If they got caught with the same amount in Polk County, they would be arrested and go to jail.

"Down the road, I could see all kinds of severe problems with our relationship with the sheriff, our relationships with the State Attorney's Office," she said.
Others on the commission disagree, including Commissioner Jim Malless, who said prohibition didn't solve the perceived problems.

 Commissioners are going to discuss the issue again at an upcoming public meeting, for which the date has not been set.

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