Pubdate: Tue, 30 Aug 2016
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Marc Levy, Associated Press


HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania needs to decriminalize small amounts of 
marijuana possession, Gov. Wolf said Monday, yet he remains guarded 
about the kind of recreational legalization that is in place in 
several western states.

While some cities have stopped arresting people for possessing small 
amounts and prosecutors have been downgrading it as a crime, the 
state should act because too many people are still going to prison 
for marijuana possession, Wolf said.

"I think we need to do that in a more systematic fashion," Wolf told 
WITF-FM's Smart Talk program. "There are too many people who are 
going to prison because of the use of very modest amounts, or carry 
modest amounts of marijuana, and that is clogging up our prisons, 
it's destroying families, and it's hurting our economy, so I think 
decriminalization is the first step."

According to the marijuana advocacy group NORML, 20 states and 
Washington have decriminalized certain marijuana possession offenses, 
making them either a summary offense, like a minor traffic violation, 
or a misdemeanor that carries no jail time.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is not opposed to 
downgrading the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana 
from the misdemeanor that it currently is, but very few people go to 
jail for it, said Ed Marsico, the Dauphin County district attorney.

Thirty days in jail is the maximum penalty for misdemeanor 
possession. Prosecutors are working to keep any sort of drug 
possession cases from going to jail, Marsico said, although drug 
dealers are another matter.

Wolf stopped short of endorsing the kind of full legalization of 
recreational use that has taken place for adults 21 and over in 
Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

"I think we can watch what happens in Colorado and Washington and 
Oregon and see what their experience is," Wolf said. "I'm not sure 
it's been uniformly great."

Wolf signed the medical marijuana bill in April. The Department of 
Health said it will take until early 2018 to make medical marijuana 
available to eligible patients.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom