Council votes to decriminalize marijuana, hash


PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The Pittsburgh City Council has voted to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana or hashish, a bill Mayor Bill Peduto has said he’ll sign.
The bill passed 7-2 on Monday. Councilwomen Darlene Harris and Theresa Kail-Smith voted against the measure, saying the city didn’t have authority to make the change because it contradicts state law and the measure could cause problems with neighboring municipalities.
Once approved, police could fine people $25 to $100 and seize the drugs as long as the person has less than 30 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of hash.
Those who voted for the ordinance said that charges for possessing small amounts of the drugs are often dismissed by local magistrates in favor of other criminal counts anyway and that a conviction for possessing pot or hash unfairly keeps some people from getting jobs years later.
The ordinance is meant to “help break the damning life-long consequences of unemployment, lack of education and being caught in a revolving criminal justice system,” said Councilman Daniel Lavelle, who sponsored the bill and chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee.
But Kail-Smith said the bill might give Pittsburgh residents a “false sense of security” if they’re pulled over while possessing the drugs in neighboring communities. Such stops “could actually escalate to something much more serious than a fine,” if suburban police try to arrest a motorist who doesn’t realize the law stops at the city limits, she said.
But Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty said, “The mayor agrees with council members, the district attorney and many others that this is a common-sense change that will help protect the futures of young people in our communities.”
Police Chief Cameron McLay also pushed for the change.


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