Allentown City Council approved an ordinance decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana within city limits Wednesday, although the rule is unlikely to be enforced.
The 4-3 vote, with the three former police officers on the board dissenting, would make possession of a small amount of marijuana — 30 grams or less — a summary offense rather than a misdemeanor.
The vote followed vigorous discussions Wednesday and at a committee meeting on the bill last week, when council members divided on the issue. Opponents argued that the ordinance would contradict state law, but proponents said the ordinance would save police time and prevent those charged with possession from facing a criminal record.
Decriminalization would not legalize marijuana, but instead reduce the penalty. Marijuana is classified by federal law as a Schedule 1 substance, the same as heroin. Possession of a small amount carries a penalty of up to 30 days in prison and a $500 fine.
Under the bill, a first-time violation would be a summary offense, akin to a traffic ticket, and carry a $25 fine.
Mayor Ray O’Connell, who must sign off on the legislation or veto it, said Wednesday that he has 10 days to make his decision. He declined to comment further. Council would need five votes to override a veto, which the board does not appear to have.
Regardless, questions remain about whether the bill would ever go into effect even if O’Connell approved it.
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(April Gamiz) Will it be enforced?
Most likely, no. Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin warned members of City Council last week that he believes the proposal conflicts with state law, calling it “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”
Martin said in a memo