Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jul 2016
Source: Citizens' Voice, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Citizens' Voice
Note: The Daily Item, Sunbury TNS


Local officials - and more important state lawmakers - would be wise 
to study up on Harrisburg's new ordinance reducing penalties for 
marijuana possession within city limits.

After nearly a half-year of debate, which included council meetings 
and meetings with the public, Harrisburg's city council unanimously 
approved a measure last week which would essentially equate being 
busted with a small amount of marijuana to receiving a traffic ticket.

The argument for the move is that the punishment is more befitting 
the crime. A person now charged with possession of marijuana will 
face a $75 fine for a first and second offense with a third offense 
leading to a misdemeanor. Additionally, someone nabbed smoking the 
drug in public will face at $150 fine, an amendment officials said is 
to deter public use of the drug.

Harrisburg joins Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as the only cities in 
the commonwealth to adopt a similar measure.

The ordinance is smart and the right thing to do. It is worth a look 
locally and on a broader scale statewide. It represents a 
proportional penalty, without potentially life-altering and 
long-lasting implications.

"It's been something that has held people back in life whether it's 
through employment, housing opportunity, student aid financing," said 
Harrisburg councilman Cornelius Johnson, "So we're hopeful that 
reducing this to fines that it's more fitting of the actual crime. We 
don't want to condone the use of marijuana, but want to make sure 
it's not impeding on anyone's life."

Penalties rival those handed out for running a stop sign or walking 
down the street with an open can of beer. These are all summary 
offenses, befitting the crime.

Nationally, 20 states have lowered the penalties for small amounts of 
marijuana. It's time Pennsylvania follow suit with smart and fair 
legislation. Gov. Tom Wolf currently opposes full legalization in the 
commonwealth, but does favor a reduction in penalties for minimal amounts.

As Pennsylvania wraps its budget this week, highprofile issues 
remain, including LGBT protections and pensions. This is an issue the 
state should open a meaningful dialogue on because the more 
municipalities that create local ordinances, the greater potential 
for confusion enters the picture when it comes to enforcement.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom