The Erie, Pennsylvania City Council has voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, according to a YourErie report. The measure would reduce the charges for possession of fewer than 30 grams from a misdemeanor to a summary offense, carrying a penalty of $25. Under current law, cannabis possession of 30 grams or less carries a penalty of 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
The new ordinance also provides a $100 fine for paraphernalia possession or using cannabis in public.
“The purpose of this is to take otherwise law-abiding citizens and not lump them in with drug dealers and gangbangers and criminals, but to give them a chance and an opportunity to rehab – so that the punishment fits the crime.” – Erie City Councilman Bob Merski, to YourErie
Merski believes that city police will respect the ordinance although cannabis remains illegal at state and local levels in Pennsylvania. Cannabis is a Schedule I Controlled Substance according to the federal government.
The ordinance needs to be approved by Mayor Joe Schember, who Merski indicated supports the reforms.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has previously indicated support for statewide decriminalization, citing the number of people imprisoned for possessing small amounts of cannabis. He has, so far, taken a “wait and see” approach to broad adult-use legalization.