Pennsylvania has tried time and time again to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, and although it's never quite made it past the Senate hurdle, at least one city in the Keystone State will be getting a little more cannabis-friendly.
The Pittsburgh City Council finished its legislative session with a 7-2 vote in favor of a bill to reduce criminal penalties to a civil fine of up to $100 for the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of hashish. The bill was sponsored by Councilman Daniel Lavelle, and Mayor Bill Peduto has also pledged his support with a promise to sign it.
This bill was passed with the intention of reducing costs for law enforcement, as well as lowering the rate of arrests for minors, who could otherwise be burdened with criminal charges that could follow them for the rest of their life. The burden is especially true for people of color in the area – a 2013 report from the ACLU shows that blacks in Allegheny County are 5.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites for the same offense, despite equal rates of usage among the two groups.
Two members of the City Council protested the new law on the basis that it may give a false sense of security to anyone who enters the city, although the ordinance does still allow police in neighboring counties to file charges for possession.
Despite the fact that 88 percent of polled Pennsylvania voters support medical marijuana legalization, somehow the state is still completely cannabis-unfriendly (albeit with a few pockets of decriminalization now). There is no medical marijuana program in place, although legislation to create a medical marijuana system has passed through Pennsylvania’s Congress every year since 2009. The bills garner support among the general populous, but when it comes time to pass them, the legislation stalls in the House or Senate committee.
Most recently, it was Representative Matt Baker (R-Tioga) who refused to take action on Senate Bill 3, ignoring widespread support from the Senate and ensuring the bill’s demise. This led to such outrage that constituents actually called for his impeachment. If your senator or representative doesn’t fit the bill, well, then, it’s a good thing that 2016 is an election year. #JustSayKnow