Pittsburgh Decriminalizes Marijuana, Hash — Is Pennsylvania On Its Way To Legalization?

Pot smokers in Pittsburgh, here is some great news for you!

Just a few days before Christmas, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto signed into law an ordinance passed by the city council to decriminalize the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana and other forms of cannabis, including hash. The law also decriminalizes smoking pot, meaning there will be no charges pressed against you even if you are caught smoking a joint in the city. Earlier, if caught smoking marijuana, you could have been sent to prison for a period of 30 days, along with having to pay a fine of up to $500. The new law took effect from the new year and has already been celebrated by marijuana advocates throughout the country.

However, under the new law, a police officer can still issue a civil citation with a fine of $25 to $100, reports Philly.com. There will be a fine of $25 for anyone caught with up to 30 grams of marijuana or eight grams of hashish, which will increase to $100 if an individual is openly possessing marijuana, including smoking in public. An analysis conducted by Carnegie Mellon University concluded that the new law is expected to save the city of Pittsburgh roughly $1 million annually in enforcement costs.

“If you are found in possession of a certain quantity or less, you’ll get a $25 ticket. If you’re found smoking it and in possession of that amount or less, you’ll get a $100 ticket,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Marijuana smoker in Pittsburgh.
Smoking marijuana will not land you in jail in Pittsburgh anymore, according to a new ordinance by the city council just before Christmas.(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Pot smokers in Pittsburgh have Councilman Daniel Lavelle to thank for the new law, as he is the one who proposed the bill in the first place. The Pittsburgh City Council passed the ordinance 7-2 in favor of decriminalizing possession of pot in the city, with two Councilwomen Darlene Harris and Theresa Kail-Smith voting against the bill. They argued that the change could cause problems with neighboring municipalities, according to WTAE.

“I think it’s the wrong message of making people believe that you’ve done something that you really haven’t done,” said Harris. “The police are still obligated through the laws of the state of Pennsylvania.”

However, the seven members voting in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession had their own reasons. Most of them argued that charges for possessing small amounts are usually dismissed by local magistrates and that a criminal conviction for possessing pot or hash unfairly keeps people from getting jobs years later.

A law akin to the one passed in Pittsburgh already exists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, and pro-marijuana advocates hope that Pittsburgh’s decision to decriminalize marijuana will be a major boost for a state hoping to end prohibition. As of now, only four states in the Unites States — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — allow the purchase of marijuana, but with changing attitudes to pot, many expect that other states will soon follow suit.

All of the states mentioned above had already reduced the penalties for possession and use of small amounts of the drug or introduced policies permitting medical marijuana use, and Pittsburgh’s decision to decriminalize marijuana will no doubt be seen by pro-marijuana groups in Pennsylvania as a step — however small — towards legalization.

Marijuana advocates have long been battling for the legalization of pot in states across the country. Pennsylvania could be the next stop in their battle. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In November this year, California — a state which has already legalized usage of marijuana for medical purposes — will vote for or against complete legalization of pot in the state. The campaign to end prohibition has been endorsed by entrepreneurs such as Sean Parker, who has scored powerful endorsements from national marijuana groups and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. It remains to be seen if a similar drive will see Pennsylvania legalize marijuana within this decade, but the new law which decriminalizes pot in Pittsburgh may well be viewed as a step towards attaining that.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]