Pittsburgh: City Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance

Pittsburgh, PA: Members of the Pittsburgh City Council voted 7 to 2 in late December in favor of municipal legislation to amend marijuana possession penalties within city limits. The city’s mayor signed the measure into law days later.

Under the new policy, minor marijuana offenders face a civil fine of no more than $100.00 for the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana and/or eight grams of hashish.

State law classifies similar possession offenses as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, possible driver’s license suspension, and a criminal record.

Implementation of the new ordinance “will protect Pittsburghers of all colors and all ages from unwarranted and unnecessary police interactions, and it will help police more efficiently utilize limited resources,” said Patrick Nightingale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML, which advocated in favor of the law change.

According to a 2013 report by American Civil Liberties Union, African-Americans in Allegheny County are 5.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Caucasians, despite both races consuming cannabis at similar rates.

Philadelphia lawmakers signed a similar decriminalization ordinance into law in 2014. Since the measure’s passage, adult marijuana possession arrests in the city fell from more than 3,700 annually to fewer than 600.

For more information, please contact Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit Pittsburgh NORML at: http://www.pittsburghnorml.org/.