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Legislation could reduce penalties for possession of marijuana

Over the past couple of decades, thousands of people nationwide have been arrested and sentenced to jail time for marijuana possession. According to current Pennsylvania state law, possession of even a small amount of marijuana, less than 30 grams, is considered a misdemeanor, which could result in a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

However, many cities in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have been working to reduce the penalties for possessing a small amount of marijuana. For the first time, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of House Bill 928, which states that possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana, for first-time or second-time offenders, would be a summary offense instead of a misdemeanor. The penalties for this summary offense would include a citation and a fine of up to $300.

For any more than two offenses, a person may be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor and the penalties would increase to a $1,000 fine and six-month license suspension. A recent amendment to the bill specifies that possession of marijuana on school grounds or in a motor vehicle, or an offense involving a minor, could also result in a misdemeanor charge.

The purpose of this change is mainly to save the courts time and save the taxpayers money. According to one representative, many people charged with possession of a small amount of a marijuana just end up paying a fine, but it ends up costing taxpayers millions to prosecute these minor offenses.

The recreational use of marijuana has not been legalized in Pennsylvania, and until it is possession and/or distribution of marijuana can result in criminal drug charges. If you have been charged with marijuana possession, it may be in your best interest to get more information about your options.

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