Reading considers lowering penalties for marijuana possession

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Sep 29, 2016 3:11 PM

(Reading) -- Three cities in Pennsylvania have already lowered the penalties for marijuana possession, and another one may be next in line.

But Reading's mayor is concerned any change would be unconstitutional.

In a recent vote, Reading City Council narrowly approved a proposal to reduce marijuana possession from a criminal offense to a traffic ticket.

It's just the first step, though, and would apply only to people caught with 30 grams or less.

Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh all have passed similar changes.

Mayor Wally Scott -- a former district judge -- says he likes the plan in principle but is concerned it wouldn't pass a legal test.

"And it may be something that we just have there waiting for the state to pass it. Maybe the answer is to send a resolution saying that we support 30 grams or less being a summary offense. Because I do, and I know the district attorney here in Berks County does," says Scott.

Scott says he's also concerned about whether State Police and Berks County detectives would recognize the change, and how people could appeal a ticket given for marijuana possession.

He adds: "Question yourself on it because we're in a position today where a lot of people want to make changes, and I believe they want to do them for the right reasons, but then we have to figure out what's the consequences to everybody else?

Scott says if the city approves the reduction to a civil penalty, he'd like to raise the fine from $75 to $300.

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