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Marijuana Penalty Reform Bill Advances

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Weekly Roundup
Friday, October 12, 2018 The latest news from the State Capitol

House Committee Advances Bill to Reduce Penalties for Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana

The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee this week approved through a bipartisan vote legislation I introduced that would reduce the penalties for most cases of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

This is a commonsense reform aimed at saving taxpayers money and ensuring the punishment fits the crime. We want criminals to pay a penalty, but we also want them to be able to get back up on their feet and become contributing members of society.

The possession of small amounts of marijuana is currently a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania and is subject to a punishment of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Taxpayers must pay for prosecutors to handle the cases, court costs associated with the proceedings and jail accommodations for those found guilty of the crime. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) also suspends the criminal’s driver’s license.

My legislation would reduce the penalties for most cases of possession of small amounts, consisting of less than 30 grams, of marijuana. The penalty for a first or second offense would be reduced from a misdemeanor to a summary offense. Those who violate the law would be subject to a citation, similar to a traffic ticket. The fine for the first or second offense would be a maximum of $300. If the person continues to break this law, the criminal would be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a mandatory $1,000 fine and a six-month suspension of his or her driver’s license.

The bill was amended in committee to also state if a person is found to have possession of marijuana on school grounds, he or she would face a general misdemeanor charge.

The justice system should be fair and effective. Citations, or tickets, are an effective way to punish relatively small infractions without tying up our courts and law enforcement personnel. We want our police officers and prosecutors to be able to focus more of their time, attention and energies on more dangerous and violent criminals.

House Bill 928 now heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

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