We've all heard of the fight for medical marijuana going on in many states throughout the country. This battle was won in Pennsylvania this week, but that doesn't mean it will not be without its challenges. Following years of lobbying, Governor Tom Wolf signed the use of medical marijuana into law.
As a criminal defense lawyer, I am before judges quite frequently for sentencing hearings. Because my law firm is located in State College, I represent a lot of Penn State students that get into trouble, often as a result of having a bit too much to drink. Most of my clients are good people at heart who made a bad decision and a few mistakes. They appear before a judge for sentencing, and it is up to the judge to determine a "fair and just" punishment. A sentence is supposed to act as a deterrent, so it must have some element of punishment. The severity of the punishment is up to the judge. The judge has the ability to take a person's very freedom by imposing a jail sentence. Striking the balance and finding the appropriate punishment is not easy, and I do not envy the judge's role in the system.
Massachusetts recently repealed a law that had been on the books for almost 30 years which imposed a license suspension for drug possession crimes even though the offenses had nothing to do with driving or a vehicle. According to a Boston Herald article, the legislation was actually supported by law enforcement and passed unanimously by both the House and Senate before being signed by the governor.
Underage Drinking happens. We all know it. We also know that it is illegal, and most of us will not, either for moral, ethical, or legal reasons, purchase alcohol for minors. There is a big difference between supporting something and acknowledging that it happens.
According to online news reports, the State College Borough is considering following the lead of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and passing a local ordinance to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. This does not mean that marijuana is now legal in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, a person that possesses less than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use is normally charged with a misdemeanor offense under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(31). The charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail, a $500.00 fine, and results in a Pennsylvania license suspension. While cities and boroughs may create new, lesser offenses for possession of weed, the officer could still choose to file the misdemeanor criminal offense.