Police, others in law enforcement still assessing how much of an effect a new ordinance might have.


Kevin Flowers @ETNFlowers

Pittsburgh, State College, Philadelphia and York have made the move.

The concept is one that Mayor Joe Schember embraces.

And as Erie City Council looks poised to reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana at its regular meeting Wednesday, local law enforcement officials are weighing in on the change and whether it will create any significant issues for them.

Council on Wednesday is expected to vote on changes to an existing city ordinance that would make possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, and drug paraphernalia, a summary offense instead of a misdemeanor under certain conditions.

That would mean that in some cases, marijuana possession would be handled like a traffic ticket, instead of as a criminal offense, with a small fine being issued.

The ordinance changes were unanimously approved by City Council on first reading Jan. 3. The changes must pass two readings of City Council before becoming law.

Mike Nolan, deputy chief of the Erie Bureau of Police’s Criminal Investigation Division, said police are reviewing a copy of the city’s ordinance, which was modeled after similar legislation approved by the State College Borough Council in August 2016.

According to Pennsylvania’s Uniform Crime Reporting System, Erie police filed 140 charges of marijuana possession in 2017. There were 110 such cases filed by city police in 2016, statistics show.

The number of those cases that involved amounts of 30 grams or less was not available.

“We have some questions to take up with council, including whether this will conflict with (state or federal law),” Nolan said. “And we will check in with other cities about how it’s played out there. Obviously, whatever council passes we will comply with.”

The ordinance reflects a nationwide trend, as municipalities move to decriminalize marijuana possession involving small amounts of the drug and drug paraphernalia. Further, many states have moved to decriminalize marijuana and/or make the use of recreational marijuana legal.

Other Pennsylvania cities are exploring ordinances similar to the one City Council plans to bring to a vote Wednesday.

City Council members in Easton, in Northampton County near Allentown, are considering their own decriminalization ordinance after reading about Erie’s decriminalization proposal, Councilman Peter Melan told the Allentown Morning Call in December.

Officials from The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have said decriminalization typically means no arrest, jail time or …read more