Pubdate: Tue, 30 Aug 2016
Source: Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, PA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Marc Levy, Associated Press


HARRISBURG (AP) - Pennsylvania needs to decriminalize small amounts 
of marijuana possession, Democratic Gov. Tom 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 
WITFFM'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, D.C., have 
decriminalized certain marijuana possession offenses, making it 
either a summary offense, like a minor traffic violation, or a 
misdemeanor that carries no threat of jail time.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is not opposed to 
downgrading the penalty for possession of 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.

"That's far from clogging up our jails," Marsico said. "There are 
plenty of people in jail with drug problems, and we realized years 
ago that treatment is the best way to work with those offenders, but 
basically nobody goes to jail for possession of a joint."

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'm not sure why we need to go beyond (decriminalization), and 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."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom