Last week, by a vote of 7 to 2, the Pittsburgh City Council approved marijuana decriminalization in the city. Instead of a criminal misdemeanor, possession of 30 grams of cannabis or less will be punishable by a fine of up to $100. The same penalty applies to up to 8 grams of hashish.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has said he will sign the bill. Hopefully this will lead to much less wasted time in regards to law enforcement arresting people for simple marijuana possession — people who are 5.7 times more likely to be black in and around Pittsburgh, even though cannabis use is pretty consistent among different races.
The new decriminalization law in Pittsburgh is similar to one enacted last year in Pennsylvania’s other big city, Philadelphia. This bodes well for possible statewide decriminalization, and maybe even legalization, in the next few years. Of course, the rural areas will be the hardest to convince, but having the major urban areas on board is a great start for legalization in any state.
“I think young people who make mistakes should not suffer lifelong consequences on something that I think is perhaps not life-threatening,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess in explaining his support. In the end, this is really what decriminalization and legalization are: common sense applied to current laws.
We have to get back to basics when it comes to laws, those basics being: a crime cannot be committed unless someone’s rights are being infringed upon. A person who has a container of cannabis in their pocket is not infringing on anyone’s rights, not even their own. They should in no way be punished for having that container in their possession.
Momentum continues in the cannabis community and laws are changing; that is really the best we can hope for in our efforts to tear down prohibition. It is up to us to keep the momentum going.