Easton PA Says No To Decriminalization Of Marijuana
Several weeks ago, we were very excited to report that Easton, PA was looking into decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis. We were there first-hand to share some opinions and give encouragement to the council members. It was a very exciting time.
Sadly, that time is over for the city of Easton.
Remember the names of those that voted to keep putting peaceful people in jail. Remember during election time that the Mayor said "We don't have the power to change anything." Remember that the he made this claim DESPITE a direct public statement made by the District Attorney himself, supporting the town passing an ordinance.
Remember: Dr. Roger Ruggles, Kenneth Brown, Sandra Vulcano, and Mayor Sal Panto Jr. These are the ones to look to the next time a friend or family member is harmed for their use of a plant. These people had a chance to use their elected position to affect real change for the people of their town. Instead, they scoffed at the idea of change and actually voted "NO" to moving the city forward. Make no mistake- they are enemies of the people. These "public servants" care nothing for the majority that have voted in poll-after-poll to decriminalize. They care nothing for the lives that are harmed daily due to the current broken system. As long as they can stay protected behind their lawyers, they seemed perfectly fine with the current system. It's all politics. It has nothing to do with public interest or service.
Panto has said he’s in favor of decriminalization, but has questioned how the city could enforce such an ordinance if recreational marijuana is still illegal at the state and federal level.
“I don’t think at least at this point that we have the authority to do this. There is nothing currently pending that says we, the municipality of Easton, have the authority to do this,” Murphy said, adding that if the ordinance was passed Easton could still be subject to federal rules and regulations.
Erie, York, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and State College also have ordinances decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. Melan said he was prompted to look into an ordinance for Easton after reading about Erie.
“How did other cities do this then?” Melan asked Wednesday.
Although District Attorney John Morganelli hasn’t attended any of the city’s meetings for the ordinance, he has said online and in the media that he is not opposed to decriminalization for small amounts of marijuana.
“Even with the blessing of the district attorney you still have reservations about this?” Melan said to Murphy.
“I’d like to see that blessing in writing,” Murphy replied.
Ordinances to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana don’t make the drug legal, but they have turned most possession offenses into fines.
Typically, decriminalization also means no arrest, prison time or criminal record for the first-time possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal consumption, according to NORML, an organization working to legalize marijuana in the United States.
Pennsylvania recently approved the use of cannabis for treating more than a dozen medical conditions, but it’s still illegal for recreational use.
“When I took this office, I took an oath to uphold state and federal laws,” and for that reason Ruggles said he decided to vote against the ordinance Wednesday.
“What message are we sending our youth today as a body of leaders that are willing to uphold this type of thing in our city?” Brown said.
The ordinance would have allowed the citing officer to exercise discretion in whether to issue a summary or criminal offense, which Panto said concerned him because it could potentially be viewed as discrimination.
“I think that opens up ‘Pandora’s box’ to a whole lot of lawsuits, particularly if it’s a protected class that’s arrested criminally and a white male that gets charged civilly,” Panto said.
According to Easton’s proposed ordinance, those found in possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana would have been issued a non-traffic summary citation with the penalty for the first and second violation being a civil fine of $75. A third offense would have carried a fine of $150. If the individual was found smoking in public, the first and second offenses would carry a fine of $150. The third time they were caught smoking in public they would be fined $300.
According to the ordinance, a person is only eligible to be charged for three offenses in a five-year period. Any subsequent offenses during that time would have been charged in accordance to federal and Pennsylvania law.
Lehigh Valley NORML Director Jeff Reidy attended Wednesday’s meeting and encouraged council to at least adopt a resolution expressing their support of statewide legalization.
City Council members said they plan to vote on the resolution at their March 14 meeting.
They were using the same, tired, used-up excuses and fear-mongering that had been dispelled by history and science time-and-time again. They had made up their minds before the meeting ever started and no amount evidence or convincing would have swayed them.
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