High Crimes: A review of marijuana decriminalization in Harrisburg – Carlisle Sentinel

Arrests resulting in a misdemeanor charge for the possession of a small amount of marijuana have dropped significantly in Harrisburg since the city’s decriminalization ordinance went into effect.

However, the lowered penalty may have resulted in more people being penalized, according to an analysis of court records conducted by The Sentinel.

Harrisburg City Council passed an ordinance in 2016 that gives police officers the option to file a summary citation and $75 fine, similar to a traffic ticket, to anyone caught with 30 grams or less of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia. The fine for using a small amount of the drug is $150.

A person can receive two citations within five years under the ordinance. Third and subsequent offenses are charged as a misdemeanor using the existing state law.

“The purpose of creating the ordinance was to give individuals who have a first or second offense to keep this at a summary level where it does not impact them career wise, education wise,” Harrisburg Police Capt. Gabriel Olivera said. “That was the intent.”

The ordinance was not implemented until the end of March.

Results

How has it worked out so far?

Arrests resulting in a misdemeanor charge for possession of a small amount of marijuana fell nearly 30 percent in the first six months after the ordinance was enacted, according to a study of court records conducted by The Sentinel.

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Misdemeanor arrests for the possession or use of a small amount of marijuana dropped by 30 percent following the implementation of a decriminalization ordinance in Harrisburg. However, overall arrests for the crime rose by 17 percent, according to a study conducted by The Sentinel.

Joshua Vaughn The Sentinel

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