Pubdate: Sun, 13 Mar 2016
Source: Citizens' Voice, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Citizens' Voice


Following Wilkes-Barre City Council's vote to decriminalize the 
possession of drug paraphernalia last week, city police Chief 
Marcella Lendacky is now studying whether the city should follow the 
lead of Philadelphia and some other, larger cities and do the same 
for small quantities of marijuana. Proponents of decriminalization 
say marijuana arrests clog the court system with non-violent 
offenders whose future career and education prospects are often 
ruined for doing something that is treated like a traffic ticket in 
some parts of the country and totally legal in others. The move would 
give police officers the discretion to file summary charges for 
possession rather than more serious misdemeanor charges.

The city's primary motivation for decriminalizing marijuana would be 
the same as its motivation for decriminalizing paraphernalia - 
economics. Fines for summary offenses go largely to the municipality 
in which those offenses occurred, while misdemeanor fines go largely 
to the state. The move could also free up police resources.

Lendacky has expressed some skepticism about the idea, which was 
raised by citizens at a council meeting, but said she'll explore it.

Her caution is understandable, proper and not surprising coming from 
a law enforcement professional, which is exactly why the discussion 
about decriminalization has to extend beyond police headquarters and 
beyond City Hall.

Any thorough examination will require input from drug-treatment 
professionals, educators, the Luzerne County District Attorney's 
Office and parents' groups. And that is just a short list with which to start.

Decriminalization would open up a host of legal, moral and societal 
issues, all of which must be thoroughly aired.

It would be a huge step for a city as small and traditionally minded 
as Wilkes-Barre, but it might prove to be a wise one.

Lendacky and Mayor Tony George should gather a group with the 
necessary expertise to decide if it is a step the city should take.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom