York passes bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana

Written by Gary Haber/The York Daily Record | Jul 19, 2017 7:05 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. A growing number of states are weighing whether to legalize marijuana to treat PTSD. While the research has been contradictory and limited, some former members of the military say marijuana helps them manage their anxiety, insomnia and nightmares. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

(York) --  York is on its way to becoming the first municipality in York County to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense rather than a crime.

By a 4-1 vote, City Council approved a bill introduced by Councilwoman Judy Ritter-Dickson subjecting those possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana to a civil fine or community service and not criminal prosecution and possible jail time.

Councilwoman Renee Nelson was the lone vote on the five-member Council against the bill, which also decriminalizes smoking marijuana in public.

By a 4-1 vote, City Council approved a bill introduced by Councilwoman Judy Ritter-Dickson subjecting those possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana to a civil fine or community service and not criminal prosecution and possible jail time. GARY HABER


The bill, which applies to those 18 or older, doesn't legalize either pot possession or smoking, but it does remove the possibility of someone getting a criminal conviction on their record.

The fine for possession is $100 for a first offense. It increases to $250 for a second and $500 for a third violation within five years.

Those caught  more than three times in a 5-year span would face criminal prosecution.

Those caught smoking marijuana in a public place would face a fine of $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense or $600 for a third offense within five years.

Pot smokers or possessors could receive community service rather than a fine, under an amendment offered by City Council President Michael Helfrich, which the Council passed.

Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, who attended the meeting, said he opposes increasing the fines for repeat offenders but said he's glad the bill includes the possibility of community service.

He doesn't want to see the law become a moneymaker for York.

"We don't want to be harvested for revenue," Stark said.

Mayor Kim Bracey has 10 days to sign or veto the ordinance, which would also become law if she takes no action.

Bracey told the York Daily Record last month that she and York Police Chief Wes Kahley worked with Ritter-Dickson in crafting the legislation.

Bracey couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Kahley, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said he doesn't oppose decriminalization, which, he said, would make "much more efficient use of an officer's time."

"Our officers understand there are more serious things going on than people smoking weed," he said.

Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh no longer treat possession of small amounts of pot as a crime.

West York's Borough Council rejected a marijuana decriminalization bill last month.


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

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