Chris Goldstein reported in Philly420 yesterday about two suburban lawmakers’ bills, which if passed and signed would increase penalties under state law for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Currently Pennsylvania only requires judges to impose a fine of $500 or less, allowing courts wide discretion, which is frequently exercised to impose fines of half of that amount or less. Writes Goldstein:
State Rep. Barry Jozwiak (R-Berks), a former state trooper, and St. Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks) want to steeply increase fines for possessing small amounts of cannabis…” The bills by the bipartisan duo “would carry a minimum fine of $500 for the first offense and jump to $750 for the second.
Under Caltagirone’s plan a third offense (or more) and the fine could rise to over $1,000 and require drug treatment. Third and subsequent offenses would still be a considered a criminal misdemeanor under Jozwiak’s measure. All for possessing a joint.”
Goldstein goes on to encourage PA legislators, as an alternative to a regressive bill or bills that would potentially clog up the courts and trap thousands more low income cannabis consumers in the justice system, instead take a page out of Philly’s book.
If legislators in Harrisburg want a proven model they need look no further than the Commonwealth’s largest city. Taking Philadelphia’s decrim model statewide could save municipalities $20 million per year and stop more than 20,000 arrests.