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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: April 12, 2016 02:00 PM
From: Representative Leslie Acosta
To: All House members
Subject: Decriminalizing Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana. Currently, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days’ imprisonment. My legislation would reduce the grading to a summary offense and would provide the following penalties:
  • For a first offense, a fine of up to $250, a clinical evaluation and, if recommended as a result of the evaluation, a substance abuse treatment program.The court may, in its discretion, waive the clinical evaluation and treatment program requirements.
  • For a second offense, a fine of up to $500.
  • For a third or subsequent offense, a fine of up to $750.

The arrest and court process disrupts the lives of those charged with marijuana possession, forcing some to take time away from school, work or caring for family members to appear before a judge. A misdemeanor conviction also creates barriers to opportunities like safe housing and gainful employment when it shows up on an offender’s background check. My legislation ensures offenders avoid incarceration as well as these other negative effects of conviction. Furthermore, the clinical evaluation for a first offense helps identify an individual with a substance abuse problem, and the treatment program ensures the individual gets the help he or she needs.

In addition, Philadelphia County in 2015 saw a 70 percent decrease in the arrest rate for marijuana possession following passage of its decriminalization ordinance. There were 2,887 total arrests for marijuana possession in 2014 compared to 858 in 2015, the first full year the ordinance was in effect. Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation so we can extend the same opportunity to all Commonwealth residents.

Introduced as HB2042