Cannabis Decriminalization Ordinance

At the December Borough Council meeting, Carlisle Borough Council may vote to adopt an ordinance to create a pilot program decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of cannabis, the smoking of a small amount of cannabis in a public space, and the possession of cannabis paraphernalia. Several other Pennsylvania cities such as Lancaster, Harrisburg, York, and Steelton, have passed similar measures.

Why are we doing this?
This ordinance will help address the racial disparity that exists in the enforcement of cannabis laws in Pennsylvania. People of color are eight times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession, while the usage rates are nearly identical among racial groups.

In addition, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana brings the penalties and consequences of marijuana possession and use in proportion to the gravity of the offense. Many people arrested are subject to consequences that may adversely affect their prospects for employment, housing, and eligibility to receive financial aid.

What It Means:
The possession or use of small amounts of marijuana (30 grams or less) will now be charged as a summary offense, similar to a traffic ticket.

The penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana will be $25 for each violation. The penalty for smoking a small amount of marijuana in a public space (street, alley, park, sidewalk, vehicle on street, alley, parking area, or any other place to which the public is invited) is $100 for each violation. The penalty for possession of marijuana paraphernalia will be $25 for each violation.

The Carlisle Borough Police Department will provide monthly reports detailing the number of citations issued, the gender and race of each offender, the number of repeat offenders, any challenges encountered, and any recommendations to improve the administration and enforcement of the program.

This is a pilot program set to expire one year from the date of its enactment. Borough Council reserves the right to terminate, modify, extend, or continue the program indefinitely.

What it DOES NOT mean:
Cannabis is not legal in the Borough of Carlisle. Possession and use is still outlawed by state and federal law. The Borough’s program makes it a lesser offense.

It does not mean that police cannot make an arrest for marijuana possession or use.

It does not mean small amounts of other illegal substances are decriminalized.

The proposed ordinance can be viewed here.

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