Cannabis Decriminalization Proposed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania


On Feb. 8, 2016, the City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, held a press conference regarding Mayor Eric Papenfuse’s ordinance proposal to amend the city’s codified ordinances to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, which will be introduced at the Harrisburg City Council meeting on Feb. 11.

According to the Harrisburg City Council Legislative Agenda, Papenfuse’s proposal includes, “An Ordinance amending Chapter 3-330 General Offenses, by adding Section 373 providing for the assessment of a fine for the possession of small amounts of cannabis in the City of Harrisburg under certain terms and conditions.”

“This is going to be a major time saver for the Harrisburg Police Department,” Papenfuse said at the press conference. “It’s going to allow us to have more officers on the street because they would be able to spend less time in the DJ’s office basically dealing with these misdemeanor cases.”

Papenfuse also added, “I want to make it clear that this is not a ordinance change which should be interpreted as pro-marijuana … . We understand that people make mistakes, we don’t want to unduly clog the criminal justice system, we want more officers on the street, and we want to give people and their families an opportunity to change without having a permanent record for a misdemeanor.”

If Papenfuse’s proposal passes, the ordinance would decriminalize possession of less than 30 grams, and it would be structured as a three-strikes program that would fine instances of simple possession instead of charging individuals with a first-offense misdemeanor. A $100 fine would be issued for an individual’s first simple possession offense, a $200 fine for the second offense and a misdemeanor charge on the third offense.

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