ACTIVE Statewide Decriminalization of Marijuana
The Pennsylvania Controlled Substances Act (pdf) defines "small amounts of marijuana" as 30 grams or less of buds/leaf matter or 8 grams or less of hashish; currently, state law says that this is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
On October 20, 2014, Philadelphia enacted an ordinance decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana to a summary offense. Pittsburgh passed its own ordinance in December 22, 2015, which went into effect early in 2016. Cannabis consumers in caught with a small amount, on a first offense, receive a ticket for a fine of $25; if caught smoking, the amount can be as high as $100. Subsequent offenses or amounts above 30g/8g of marijuana/hashish can still result in being physically arrested. The ordinance has resulted in a 82% drop in arrests, and savings of up to $4,400,000 by the taxpayers in Philadelphia. The issues surrounding Pittsburgh's decriminalization being held up for legal issues is a prime example of why statewide decriminalization is necessary.
Philly NORML supports efforts to decriminalize marijuana across all of Pennsylvania in a similar manner to the way Philadelphia and Pittsburgh did it. The best legislaton currently on the table was PA State Rep. Ed Gainey. His bill is HB195, which will reduce the criminal grade of possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a summary offense, with a maximum fine of $100. Jail time would officially be off the table as a punishment for the vast majority of cannabis consumers across the entire Commonwealth, and the bill does not force treatment or any other unnecessary stigmatization. Philly NORML fully supports this legislation because it will result less harsh treatment of cannabis consumers. This will keep 18,000 adults and juveniles out of the criminal justice system every year while saving Pennsylvania taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
Another bill that we are tracking is HB928, sponsored by Rep. Barry Jozwiak. This bill is not quite as good as HB195 but PhillyNORML will not block it if it moves foward. Our goal is to get the best decrim bill possible in 2017.