Late last year the City of Philadelphia decriminalized marijuana possession. Prior to that marijuana possession was a crime, which was punishable by an arrest, a criminal charge, and a fine. The total estimated cost for each arrest was $1,266 according to the RAND Corporation. Now getting caught with a personal amount of marijuana in Philadelphia only results in a $25 fine. The cost of issuing that fine is $20. It's not as good as legalization, but it's a public policy move that has already saved the City of Philadelphia over one million dollars.
The City of Pittsburgh must have noticed those savings, because tomorrow the Pittsburgh City Council is going to hold a public hearing on marijuana decriminalization. Per the Pittsburgh City Paper:
"From a fiscally responsible government perspective," says Pittsburgh City Councilor Daniel Lavelle, "when police have to go about dealing with small amounts of marijuana and these charges end up having to go through the court system, it ultimately is a huge burden and fiscal waste of government resources."
And that's one of the reasons why last month Lavelle proposed legislation to decriminalize marijuana. Under the ordinance, possession would be punishable by a civil fine of up to $100 for less than 30 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of hashish, which has a higher concentration of THC.
"It's giving the police the option," says Lavelle. "As opposed to having to place criminal charges on [offenders], they can provide a fine similar to a parking ticket."
If you are in the Pittsburgh area, you should definitely attend the public hearing. Be respectful if you do attend. According to the Pittsburgh City Council website, the hearing is scheduled for 1:30 pm. Below is info about the location:
414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219