Many people can come up with a concoction of reasons why they’d like to legalize or, at least, decriminalize marijuana; for instance, it has had medical benefits, it consistently results in fewer deaths than alcohol does, and many believe that minorities are unjustly prosecuted for minor possessions. However, another big argument for decriminalization is that it may reduce pressure on resources in the city by having law-enforcement officials to center on major or violent offenses. Also, it could free up court resources by lowering the amount of people running through the criminal justice system.

Here’s what Pittsburgh City Councilor Daniel Lavelle had to say: “From a fiscally responsible government perspective, when police have to go about dealing with small amounts of marijuana and these charges end up having to go through the court system, it ultimately is a huge burden and fiscal waste of government resources.”

In addition, that is one of the reasons why Lavelle considered decriminalizing marijuana in November. Under the legislation, possession would only lead to a small fine up to $100 for less than 30 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of hashish, which has more THC than usual strands.

“It’s giving the police the option,” Lavelle said. “As opposed to having to place criminal charges on [offenders], they can provide a fine similar to a parking ticket.”

Lavelle only decided to consider decriminalization when the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation and the Alliance for Police Accountability, who had both been working on the issue, approached him.

“The reason we thought decriminalizing is a good thing is there’s a gross disparity in enforcement when it comes to possession of marijuana,” said APA president, Brandi Fisher.  “African-American males are arrested six to seven times more in the city of Pittsburgh than white people. We know the usage isn’t six to seven times more. So that is one of the reasons we’ve pushed to decriminalize marijuana.”


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