Marijuana Possession Ordinance passes initial reading in Meadville
Right now in the City of Meadville, if you possess any amount of marijuana, you're charged with a misdemeanor and left with a criminal record.
"You have to go to a preliminary hearing before a district justice, if you're bound over-- you're bound over to court. If you go to court, you have to get a lawyer or a public defender,” Meadville City Councilman, Jim Roha, explained how the process works now.
But, council is working to lessen penalties for minor marijuana offenses. Instead of thousands of dollars in fines and court costs, a new ordinance would mean a $300 fine for offenders and a summary judgement, which is a citation similar to a ticket.
"It's still a punishment, but it's the degree that's different," said Roha.
The first and second reading of the proposal passed unanimously. "[Offenders are] not faced with jail time. They can get a job. They can still apply for federal loans and grants,” councilman Larry McKnight told Erie News Now.
Councilmembers we spoke with tell me this is a win/win for everyone. While decreasing fines for offenders, it also decreases the time commitment of police and city officials.
"Once [police] arrest someone for that, they have to appear in court, and then we have to cover that shift. So, it's saving us and the offenders," said McKnight.
But, a main key to this ordinance is offenders will still be punished and repeat offenders can still get more serious charges."If you're a repeat offender, and they get 3 or 4 calls a week out to your house, they're going to come down harder on you," said McKnight.
Meadville City Council is hoping this shows the public they're willing to change with the times.
”It's showing our residents that we're willing to grow, and our police department is willing to grow. We're not trying to make arrests for everything. We're looking at the way times are changing and we're trying to adapt,” said McKnight.