Local lawmakers in Pennsylvania’s capital city discovered on May 18 that reducing the penalties for possessing small quantities of marijuana can be a delicate and complex process. Members of the Harrisburg City Council had hoped to implement a law that would see marijuana possession classified as a summary offense rather than a misdemeanor, but questions about how the measure would be applied to juvenile offenders led to the discussion being tabled.
The proposed measure was drafted to reduce the burden placed on law enforcement and to favor treatment and counseling over punishment for juveniles caught with marijuana. However, council members were unable to reach an agreement over matters such as fine schedules and the number of repeat offenses that would trigger a misdemeanor charge. The mayor had advocated a beginning fine of $100, but several council members felt that this figure was too high and pointed to similar laws passed recently in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that feature fines beginning at $25.