West York says "no" to reducing pot penalties

Written by Teresa Boeckel/The York Daily Record | Jun 6, 2017 7:12 AM

In this March 10, 2016, photo, former U.S. Marine, Mike Whiter lights a marijuana cigarette before he starts editing a video project at his home in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

It's possible the council could consider another ordinance.

(West York) -- West York will not be reducing penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Council narrowly defeated a proposed ordinance Monday night that could have resulted in a fine instead of a misdemeanor charge for the offense. The misdemeanor charge can include jail time.

Council president Mary Wagner, Richard Stahle Jr., Nicholas Laughman and Annette Christine voted against it. They expressed concerns, including the message it might send to children and that marijuana remains illegal under state law.

"Even the police chief says it's not going to make a difference," Wagner said outside of the meeting. "They're going to use their discretion no matter how we vote."

West York's decision came just as York City Council plans to discuss a similar proposal on Tuesday evening. Those who are in possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana -- or are caught smoking in a public place -- would be given a ticket under the city's proposal.

West York Mayor Shawn Mauck, who proposed the marijuana ordinance in the borough a few months ago, said he knew it was going to be a close vote, and he sees two silver linings after council's decision.

The police department is already making discretionary decisions in possession of marijuana cases, and "we're going to continue to do that," Mauck said.

Also, the council opened the door to the possibility of crafting a different bill, and Mauck said he would be willing to work with them.

Stahle said he's not opposed to an ordinance, and he thinks it could be revisited. He said he has some major concerns.

He said he'd like to see the amount -- 30 grams -- lowered to something smaller. He'd also like to address how it would be handled if someone is smoking in an apartment and a neighbor smells it. He wouldn't want to expose children to that situation.

"It wasn't ready for what we feel we wanted here in West York borough," he said.

Christine expressed concerns about public safety outside of the meeting.

"I think it'll bring more drug deals to West York, more people selling marijuana, and I don't want kids exposed to it," she said.

She worries that small children will see it as they are growing up and will start using even younger.

Supporters and opponents to the proposed ordinance attended the meeting Monday night.

Dan Massey of Carlisle said he felt that the council members who voted "no" chose not to educate themselves on the topic.

Massey, who is a brain cancer survivor, spoke during public comment and urged the council to read the science and stop the fear mongering. It's a plant that can control seizures, for example.

"Nobody should be denied this plant -- nobody," he said.


This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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