Last Monday the Pittsburgh City Council voted to decriminalize the possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. Pittsburgh joins Philadelphia as the second biggest city in the state of Pennsylvania to pass a similar ordinance. Council members finished the 2015 legislative session on a higher note, by also approving the decriminalization of up to 8 grams of hash with a 7 to 2 vote.
Pittsburgh police will only issue fines of $25 for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana and $100 for smoking marijuana in public areas instead of citing for misdemeanors. Under Pennsylvania state law, possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor which can get you up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Although police could charge offenders under harsher state laws, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is expected to direct officers to cite offenders under the city ordinance.
Local supporters have said the new ordinance assist in keeping young people from being cited for a minor offenses and having a criminal record that could affect future employment and school scholarship opportunities.
Opponents of the legalization are saying that permitting the possession of small amounts of marijuana should only be allowed on the state level to avoid any potential confusion law enforcement may face.
The ordinance “could actually escalate to something much more serious than a fine,” said Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who voted against the measure, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported.
Some of the other cities that have marijuana decriminalization laws include Chicago and Philadelphia. Currently about half of U.S. states allow marijuana for medical use. It is legal for recreational use in Oregon, Colorado, Washington state and Washington, D.C.
On a national level, Pittsburgh hops on board with a growing trend of local cities creating similar laws to continue to reduce simple marijuana possession penalties, including Chicago, Detroit and Washington, DC.