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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: June 2, 2015 10:21 AM
From: Representative Barry J. Jozwiak
To: All House members
Subject: Marijuana Possession
I hope you join me in sponsoring legislation that will reduce the penalty for a first or second offense of possessing a small quantity of marijuana (under 30 grams) from a misdemeanor to a summary offense. Downgrading this offense from a misdemeanor to a summary offense would have a positive effect on local law enforcement efforts, allowing police and prosecutors to focus their time and resources on more serious offenses.

Currently the possession of a small amount of marijuana is an ungraded misdemeanor which is treated as a misdemeanor of the third degree with a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. As a misdemeanor offense, the charge must be prosecuted by the local district attorney in the local Court of Common Pleas. This involves higher costs not just for prosecutors, but also for the court and for the defendant himself. If a first or second offense were graded as summary offenses, they could be treated by issuing citations. Police officers would appear in local magisterial district justice courts to prosecute the cases or the defendant could just simply pay the fine, resulting in cost savings all around. A third offense would still be graded as a misdemeanor offense.

Last year in Berks County there were 542 cases of possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. These cases cost thousands of dollars to prosecute for what usually results in a $200 fine. I’m sure this is the same in other counties.

As a former law enforcement officer, I strongly believe in cracking down on drug dealers and those who prey on the young or weak with drugs. But those defendants are addressed elsewhere in the Controlled Substances Act. For individuals who merely possess small amounts of marijuana, I believe this adjusted grading makes sense, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars in court costs.

Please join me in sponsoring this legislation. If you have any questions contact Gail Pakosky at 772-9940 or via email gpakosky@pahousegop.com.

Introduced as HB1422