Contact your Elected Officials - Oppose Mandatory Minimum Sentences in PA

Mandatory minimum sentences were declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 2013. There are efforts underway in Pennsylvania to change the law in such a way that allows prosecutors to continue using this practice. This directly affects cannabis consumers and medical cannabis patients, because it imposes minimum sentences under certain circumstances which would place consumers, patients, and growers in jepeoardy. Please join us in opposing this effort.

New legislation in the form of House Bill 1601, sponsored by PA State Reps. Vereb, Marsico, and Baker, would change "preponderance" to "beyond a reasonable doubt", thus allowing prosecutors to ask for mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

In the context of marijuana, this means a minimum sentence of 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine (or more) will be imposed if:

  1. you are caught growing between 10 and 21 live plants - OR -
  2. the amount of marijuana in question is >= 2 and < 10 pounds

Keep in mind the definition of a 'plant' can include seedlings, clones, and cannabis in a vegetative growth state. A minimum sentence of 1 year in jail and a $15,000 fine (or more) will be imposed if:

  1. you are caught growing between 21 and 51 live plants - OR -
  2. the amount of marijuana in question is >= 10 and < 50 pounds

A minimum sentence of 3 years in jail and a $50,000 fine (or more) will be imposed if:

  1. you are caught growing 51 ore more plants - OR -
  2. the amount of marijuana in question is >= 50 pounds

This is a horrendous abuse of law. Nobody deserves jail time for marijunaa, whether they're dealing it, growing it for themselves, using it for medical reasons, or simply smoking it for pleasure. Mandatory minimum sentences place undue strain on our criminal justice system in a number of ways. They strip judges of their ability to judge the severity of crime and sentence the defendant accordingly. Prosecutors love to abuse the mandatory minimums to intimidate defense attorneys and defendants from filing pre-trial motions. In addition, they place an undue burden on PA taxpayers to house these non-violent offenders in prison for a minimum term. It costs roughly $45,000 per year to keep someone in jail. That is tax money that could be spent elsewhere.

Pennsylvania is already on the path to ending marijuana prohibition; this legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

For all those reasons, Philly NORML opposes HB1601. Please take a moment to send your State Representative a short message asking them to oppose it as well. To be sure they read your message, change the message subject to something more personal or unique, and add your own comments to the message being sent!

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