A state senator has introduced two bills that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and clean the records of those charged with criminal possession of the drug.
Sen. Mike Stack, D-Philadelphia, who also is running for lieutenant governor, said the state's battle against pot has been costly and ineffective, leading him to introduce SB 1307 and SB 1308. Both were referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week.
"The old hard-line stance on marijuana has been ineffective at eradicating its use and the cost to taxpayers is outsized for the job," Stack said during a recent news conference as reported by Politics PA. "These bills are not intended to be a commentary on the wisdom or health of marijuana use. They are targeted at the wisdom of continuing an approach that is expensive, ineffective and misguided. These bills are a challenge for those who talk about identifying programs that don't work and either fixing or eliminating them."
The first bill would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a summary offense for a first and second offense, according to the co-sponsorship memo. A third conviction would allow a district attorney to charge a person with a misdemeanor, use ARD, or use other options to address the third and subsequent offenses.
"The goal of this bill is to ensure district attorney's can use their limited resources to prosecute dangerous criminals, rather than nonviolent people that made a bad decision," Stack said in the memo.
The second bill would allow those convicted of marijuana possession — both in the past and any future incidents — to have their records expunged. The person would have to meet certain requirements, such as not having any subsequent convictions for the previous 18 months.
Marijuana decriminalization has been a hot topic nationwide after Colorado and Washington state decriminalized the drug over the past year.