Did you read that the City of Pittsburgh is about to decriminalize possession of marijuana for users of less than 1 ounce of marijuana? This is potentially a huge change in the prosecution of drug cases. It is, of course, the first step in that process.
I am not sure how I feel about the attempt to decriminalize it. I guess there are 2 arguments and both of them seem very valid. The most humane and progressive view for why the law is about to changed is this. Why give young individuals, who made a mistake when they were in their teens or in college, a permanent stain on their record? This is a very valid point. When young people apply to graduate school, law school or medical school, for example, schools do a complete background check about the candidate’s eligibility for their programs. If it comes up that the individual had a possession of marijuana charge, even though it was less than 1 ounce, that is going to create at least a question for the applicant’s fitness for the program. It may be just as important when applying for any job as employers have become sophisticated about looking into an applicant’s background. The person might be 100% qualified for the job. However, the background check might show that the prospective employee had a marijuana charge many years ago. Is that enough to deny this young person employment? Clearly it shouldn’t be. However, as a practical matter if 2 equally qualified applicants are in the running for a position, this could tip the balance against the person with a criminal charge. This law would attempt to take away the stain by decriminalizing it.
I guess the other argument, which I think is somewhat weaker, is that this is going to open up the flood gates to decriminalizing more and more drugs. Many people believe that people who get addicted to harder drugs like cocaine or heroin start with a less addictive drug like marijuana. Again, I am not sure of the statistics on that, but there is a pretty solid belief, especially among older adults, that there is some truth to that argument.
Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Bernie Tully has represented countless young individuals charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana. What I do try to counsel individuals with this charge is that currently you might not believe that possession of a drug like marijuana is a crime. However, it is still on the books as such and that if you get caught by the police, you are in for a somewhat major hassle in your daily activities. With this proposed change young people would not have to be concerned with that.
Another interesting part is that, incredibly, on the federal level, possession of drugs, even marijuana, is still potentially a federal crime. So how the states and federal government co-exist on that issue, when many states have decriminalized marijuana, is very perplexing. But that is the job of state legislators or Congress to resolve.
What do you think of this change in Pittsburgh about decriminalizing marijuana for possession of less than 1 ounce? Do you think is the right thing to do?
You can also visit my professional page at Bernard Tully Attorney at Law anytime for almost daily posts on things that are happening in the law.
Thanks for reading.
Bernie the attorney