Carlisle Borough Council passed an ordinance Thursday that decriminalizes marijuana.
“I know this ordinance is not a perfect solution, and while it does not solve all of the issues created by the criminalization of cannabis I do think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Councilman Jeff Stuby, who proposed the ordinance at a September borough council meeting.
The ordinance makes possession of a small amount of marijuana, possession of marijuana paraphernalia and smoking marijuana in public summary offenses under the borough code. Possession offenses will be fined $25 and public smoking will be fined $100. The ordinance also allows the fines to be suspended in exchange for community service.
The ordinance is a one-year pilot program that will be reviewed.
Proponents of decriminalization say laws against possession of a small amount of marijuana disproportionately affect Black people. In previous discussions, council members also said it’s hypocritical to allow the use of medical marijuana while criminalizing the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Stuby said government actions to reform marijuana laws have widespread support from Democrats and Republicans. Voters in conservative and liberal states alike approved ballot measures legalizing marijuana in the November general election. Among them were South Dakota, New Jersey, Montana and Arizona.
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The borough received written comments both in favor of and against the ordinance prior to the meeting, Stuby said.
Councilman Joel Hicks said his vote in favor of the ordinance was reflective of the distinction between decriminalization and legalizing marijuana.
“We’re not doing ourselves a favor to continue to criminalize what is in effect a problem that we can deal with in other ways,” he said.
Though the ordinance passed, Stuby said the issue extends beyond the borough’s borders, calling on the state and federal government to take up the issue.
“It’s time for us as a society to reconsider how we treat this issue. It is time for us to reform our failed and outdated cannabis laws,” he said.
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