As of Wednesday, Jan. 17, Erie City Council voted to make 30 grams or less of marijuana a summary offense rather than a misdemeanor. As the marijuana legalization train continues to sweep its way through the Eastern front of the country, Erie is already following in the footsteps of other major cities in Pennsylvania with the implication of this law. The decriminalization of marijuana possession continues, and this newly agreed-upon ordinance furthers that notion…to an extent.
The ordinance stipulates that this law is not in effect in all cases. For example, if an individual also is tied to a felony or multiple misdemeanors, the court also could tack on a possession charge if found to be the case, regardless of the amount. There are also strict stipulations pertaining to this highly publicized legislation that many are unaware it contains. Possession of marijuana will now result in a $25 fine while any smoking usage of it in public will result in a $100 fine. Again, keep in mind that every case could fluctuate and be viewed as subjective in a court of law.
The primary goal in mind with the implementation of this is that it will allow for police forces to garner more attention to critical issues while also allowing nonviolent offenders an opportunity to move forward with their lives. A summary offense will not affect employment, federal financial aid for college, or military admittance, unlike a misdemeanor offense otherwise would. It will most likely be treated like a traffic violation more or less moving forward.
This brand new law has gained the approval of Mayor Joe Schember as well as many city representatives including Councilman Bob Merski, who said, “Decriminalization does not mean that it’s a free-for-all. It is still a crime.” He explained how he feels this is an improvement from previous legislation in place saying, “What it means is that it’s become a civil offense instead of a criminal offense. What ends up happening is something you did at 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 [years old], ends up affecting you for the rest of your life. What we want is for these people to pay their debt to society, and move on with their lives.”
Alex Welz is a former senior-editor-in-chief of The Rambler as a member of the Cathedral Prep Class of 2018.