The current marijuana laws in the City of Erie could soon go up in smoke.

In a unanimous decision, Erie City Council has approved the first reading of an ordinance that will decriminalize pot possession from a misdemeanor to a summary offense.

"We're not looking to encourage marijuana use,” said Erie City Councilman Bob Merski.  “But at the same time, we have to acknowledge that the punishment doesn't fit the crime."

According to Merski, under the new ordinance, first-time offenders who are caught with under 30 grams of marijuana or drug paraphernalia will receive a $250.00 dollar fine, with no jail time.  The charge would also not go on your record.

"When you're a young person and you make a mistake, such as smoking marijuana, it shouldn't follow you for life,” said Merski.  “This allows you to redeem yourself and move on with your life.”

Erie City Council President Sonya Arrington agrees.

"I definitely agree,” said Arrington.  “Especially working with young people, and you know what they are out there doing…it shouldn't be held against them for the rest of their lives."

In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, Reading, and the Borough of State College have similar laws in place. 

Council members say it's time for Erie to follow suit.

"Times have changed and people's viewpoints on alcohol changed from the prohibition until now,” said Merski.  “I think that by regulation and by education, it's a much more efficient way then incarceration."

Erie City Council is expected to take a final vote on the ordinance at their next meeting Jan. 17.

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