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My city decriminalized pot — why was I arrested?

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2020 | Drug Crimes

Several municipalities in Pennsylvania have passed ordinances decriminalizing the possession of under an ounce of cannabis. Still, the police in these cities may arrest and charge you if they find you carrying even a small amount of marijuana. According to the York Daily Record, there were more marijuana charges in 2019 than there were in 2009 when possession of any amount was a criminal offense across the board. Police are even arresting patients registered as medical cannabis users, so what is the point of decriminalization?

A decriminalized offense simply means that the charge will not result in a criminal conviction or sentencing. The ordinances devised by several Pennsylvania municipalities apply to less than an ounce of marijuana with no association to any offense beyond the simple possession. If your town has passed one of these ordinances, the penalty is usually no more than a $500 fine when previously it may have meant a jail sentence. All other cannabis-related offenses still carry a criminal charge, including possession of an ounce or more, intent to distribute, use in public and driving under the influence.

However, state law overrides any city mandate, and any possession of marijuana is illegal in Pennsylvania. Police officers in jurisdictions that have decriminalized cannabis may use their discretion in applying either the ordinance or the state law, and it seems many continue to opt for the latter. If you receive an arrest for possession, you may wind up spending the night in jail, and even though the prosecutor may choose not to press your charges, the arrest will still remain on your record.