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MORTON — Council voted at a recent meeting to establish civil penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana as a minor public health violation.
The amendment to the Chapter 6 of the Code of the Borough of Morton notes that the council has determined that the arrest, charging, and prosecution of individuals possessing small amounts of marijuana represents a substantial cost to taxpayers well as to law enforcement, prison, and court resources.
Civil violation of the ordinance includes purchasing or attempting to purchase a small amount of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia or smoking a small amount in any public space. However, any of these violations that take place within, or on the grounds of, any public library or any public or parochial elementary or secondary school shall be charged as criminal violations under the state criminal statutes.
“A civil penalty penalty provides a practical tool and commonsense approach to controlling the use of marijuana and promotes greater efficiency in Morton Borough’s criminal justice system,” the amendment states in part.
Violators of the new amendment shall be issued a non-traffic summary citation by the police. Minors will be temporarily detained and the parent or guardian will be notified of the violation.
“The new ordinance gives our officers discretion and it’s not clogging up the court system,” said Police Chief Joe LaSpina. “It’s saving our officers paperwork and time. Time is money. We’re keeping our officers on the street.”
LaSpina explained that people don’t have time to get fingerprinted and police don’t have to take the evidence out to the police lab to get the evidence weighed and analyzed. Officers are spending less time in court and the people arrested aren’t getting criminal records that they later have to get expunged.
“Sometimes people make choices when they’re younger and they have to pay a lot for them when they get older,” the police chief observed.
LaSpina warned that the new ordinance does not make it legal to smoke marijuana and one can still be charged with the criminal charge in certain circumstances.
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