Why is PA Still Arresting Thousands Each Year for Cannabis Possession?

Cannabis and law in Pennsylvania continues to be strictly regulated regardless of how popular the plant is with voters. Though medical cannabis and marijuana was approved in 2016 through a state ballot initiative, the legislature continues to debate how to implement it, and the commonwealth’s governor remains steadfast in his position against any form of legal adult use. We’re spending an awful lot of time still criminalizing what is essentially decriminalized in all but name.

The resources that are being spent on cannabis arrests would be much better spent in other areas. We’re all aware of how the prison system works, churning out profits for officials through cheap labor obtained on the backs of “criminals.” While this is a largely unethical practice, it is one that is still consistently present in many newly legal states.

Cannabis Laws And Arrests In PA

According to research from the Marijuana Policy Project, Pennsylvania is one of 19 states in the US where possessing cannabis is punishable by a criminal record and the possibility of jail – and PA lawmakers continue to put thousands behind bars each year.

According to recent data from the Pennsylvania State Police, 1,057 minors and 12,439 adults were detained for simple cannabis possession in 2021. Despite a 30 percent decrease between 2020 and 2021 in the overall number of arrests, these numbers are still significant, especially when you consider that both the bordering states of New Jersey and New York have fully legalized the plant.

In 2014, Philadelphia became Pennsylvania’s first sizable city to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses. Since that time, more than a dozen localities, including Harrisburg, have adopted similar policies to reduce penalties.

These laws have not all been fully put into effect. For instance, even after the City Council passed a decriminalization law, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin refused to allow Allentown police to stop making marijuana arrests.

The 2014 decriminalization ordinance in Philadelphia was co-written by Chris Goldstein, an activist with the group NORML, who also stated that justice for cannabis doesn’t start until arrests actually end.

Police in Pennsylvania made an average of 38 cannabis-related arrests each day. Additionally, according to NORML, marijuana-related charges for substance possession account for close to half of all arrests statewide.

Bias With Arrests

Goldstein, who made the request for statistics from the state police, stated that it is “obvious that cannabis consumers are being targeted in Pennsylvania for arrest and the striking racial inequalities to enforcement are getting worse.” These police encounters with cannabis are extremely dangerous and have lasting effects; this is especially true during a pandemic.

With a total of 1,222 teenagers under the age of 18 being detained for all drugs, 87 percent of which were related to drug possession, the startling number also showed that youth were the group most negatively impacted by the cannabis prohibition.

Additionally, data appears to show that racial discrepancies are widening, as more than half of the 2,952 Hispanic or Latino people arrested in Pennsylvania are charged with marijuana possession.

Efforts To Legalize 

Legislators in Pennsylvania are still pushing for the state and federal legalization of marijuana in the interim.

Recent developments include the amendment proposed by Rep. Aaron Kaufer (R), which the House Finance Committee approved as a component of a larger tax code reform bill, and the signing into law of a bill by Gov. Tom Wolf (D), which contains crucial provisions to safeguard banks and insurers that do business with licensed medical marijuana businesses.

The Kaufer amendment would permit MMJ enterprises to deduct business expenses from state taxes. These tax deductions are currently prohibited under federal law.

Medical cannabis is legal, and many voters, as well as legislators, are pushing for legalized adult-use recreational cannabis. However, officials in Pennsylvania continue to allocate virtually endless amounts of time, money, and energy to making arrests on cannabis charges. Everyone can see through the facade of officials trying to maintain outdated cannabis practices in order to continue running for-profit prisons filled with thousands of citizens arrested on criminal charges.

We wonder how long it will take for them to realize their own hypocrisy and immorality.

Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!

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