For more than five hours city commissioners heard testimony and questioned two expert panels as they explored whether to change how misdemeanor possession of marijuana is enforced by the Lakeland Police Department

Christopher Guinn @cguinnnews

LAKELAND — The City Commission chose not to buck the advice of municipal, county and state law enforcement officials by pursuing an ordinance to reduce the penalties for Lakeland Police Department’s enforcement of minor marijuana possession.

For more than five hours, city commissioners heard testimony and questioned two expert panels as they explored whether to change how misdemeanor possession of marijuana is enforced by police.

The hearing was held a day after Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment approving the use of medical marijuana.

Commissioner Justin Troller proposed the issue be taken to a municipal ballot, but aside from Commissioner Bill Read, lacked support from the rest of his colleagues.

“This issue is not going to go away,” Troller said. “I would hope the people in the community who have been advocates for it will do their part.”

The discussion, organized at the request of the City Commission, brought together old adversaries in the state’s ongoing debate about how drug law is enforced on the street.

“One of the most dangerous things about cannabis is being caught with it,” said Christopher Cano, the director of Central Florida NORML, a marijuana policy advocacy group.

A specific ordinance has not been created, but other states and counties in Florida could have provided templates if Lakeland decides to go ahead with removing the criminal penalty and replacing it with a civil fine from possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana.

“Is the current policing structure and policing policy just?” Cano asked. “And is it the right thing to do?”

“We are simply asking for our officers in the city

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