Whitemarsh considering ordinance that would provide police alternative to cite those possessing marijuana

On the agenda for the September 10th meeting of Whitemarsh’s Board of Supervisors is an item that involves considering the advertisement of an ordinance that provides an “alternative for police to cite persons who personally use or possess a small amount of marijuana or possess marijuana paraphernalia,” according to a memo from the township’s solicitor. The memo also states that a “small amount” of marijuana is defined as, 30 grams or less of marijuana or eight grams or less of hashish.

From the memo:

The proposed ordinance provides the following procedure for citation for a violation of the ordinance:

“Any person who is found in violation of this section of this Chapter shall be issued a non-traffic summary citation by the police or other authorized law enforcement officer or, alternatively, the officer can obtain the subject’s name and address and later send the citation by first-class mail, all to be in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure.

The memo also outlines a procedure for when a minor is found in personal possession or personal use of a small amount of marijuana or possession of marijuana paraphernalia:

“Any police officer or other authorized law enforcement officer who observes a violation of this section of this Chapter by a person under 18 years of age shall:

(1) Temporarily detain the minor and follow all existing procedures for the handling of summary offenses committed by a minor;
(2) Advise the parent or guardian that the minor was found in personal possession of a small amount of marijuana or to have been engaging in personal use of a small amount of marijuana;
(3) Issue a copy of the citation to the parent or guardian advising that he or she is responsible for the payment of the violation fine; and
(4) Provide the parent or guardian with contact information for a local agency where substance abuse educational and treatment programs are available.”

The memo also outlines what the ordinance wouldn’t change as it pertains to state and federal law.

“This Chapter shall not be construed to supersede any existing Pennsylvania or Federal law. The Whitemarsh Township police and law enforcement officers retain the authority to enforce any applicable laws, and it is the Board of Supervisors’ intent that such law enforcement officers may undertake custodial arrests where there is probable cause to believe that a criminal offense other than personal possession or personal use of a small amount of marijuana or personal possession of marijuana paraphernalia has been or is being committed.”

Norristown passed a similar ordinance this year. In his memo, the solicitor shares that Norristown imposes a $25 fine for first and second violations of the ordinance and a $75 fine for the third violation. After the third violation, Norristown charges in accordance with state and/or federal law.

If the Board of Supervisors decides to move forward with the advertisement of the proposed ordinance, it could consider adopting the ordinance at a future meeting.

If you want to read the memo, you can find it here (go to page 576).

More to come.