Lehigh Valley

Easton officials wary about decriminalizing marijuana

Reform must come from state, they say

EASTON, Pa. - An Easton council member is pushing for marijuana decriminalization at a local level, but local leaders are pushing back.

Peter Melan introduced a bill at Wednesday’s regular meeting that would allow police officers more discretion in charging marijuana possession. 

“We’re not the first city to do this,” Melan said, citing York, Pa., as a working example.

Under the law, officers would be able to write a non-traffic summary citation for minor marijuana possession and use, and for possession paraphernalia, instead of recording it as a criminal offense.

The goal is to make decriminalization more palatable at state level while reducing arrests stemming from smalltime marijuana charges.

But the issue is far from settled among city officials.

Mayor Sal Panto called the bill a dangerous superseding of state laws.

Council member Ken Brown said he worried it would bring marijuana smokers onto the streets where secondhand smoke could reach children.

Council member Roger Ruggles agreed with Panto and Brown that having two penalty levels for the same crime would present a dangerous opening for potential lawsuits.

Jeff Riedy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML, urged the hesitant officials to consider the law’s benefits.

Passing the ordinance would prevent people from being “caught up in the system,” and could set off a wave of reform in other cities considering passing marijuana.

Panto said that while he agrees that marijuana should be decriminalized, it has to be done at the state level because municipalities cannot supersede state law.

“We cannot pass this ordinance,” Panto said. “It’s useless.”

The ordinance will have a public hearing next to hear the public’s input and concerns before it goes up for a vote.

Other business

Easton officials are pressing the county to contribute $500,000 annually in support of the Regional Information Investigation Center (RIIC).

RIIC is a technology system that compiles data from federal, state and some county and local sources to process investigations faster. With data that goes beyond jurisdictional borders, RIIC allows officers to identify suspects more easily.

DISCLAIMER FOR COMMENTS: The views expressed by public comments are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the TERMS OF USE  and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Your comments may be used on air. Be polite. Inappropriate posts or posts containing offsite links may be removed by the moderator.

This Week's Circulars


Lehigh Valley News

Latest From The Newsroom