Gov candidate Schwartz: Decriminalize marijuana in PA

Only one Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate supports the full legalization of marijuana, but the rest could probably be split up into who’s for decriminalizing small amounts of the stuff, and who isn’t.

During a lengthy discussion with Philadelphia Weekly on Monday, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz revealed that not only is she in favor of medical marijuana at the state level, but she’d be open to decriminalizing simple possession of the plant, as well, if she were governor.

“I do believe that marijuana is over-criminalized. And what we should do is decriminalize possession,” she said.

Largely considered the frontrunner in the race for Pennsylvania’s Democratic nomination, Schwartz has basically ignored the marijuana issue, until now. She noted that she is “not where John Hanger is” — a reference to the former environmental secretary running for governor who seeks to recreationalize the plant, a la Colorado and Washington — but would support a new system in Pennsylvania in which those caught with small amounts of marijuana are not arrested and do not earn a criminal record from smoking it.

So, what’s the plan, exactly? What amount of pot could one possess in the state without being thrown in jail? That’s where the specifics end. Schwartz didn’t get into how she’d go about decriminalizing small amounts of the plant, or even what would be defined as a “small amount.” Rather, as governor, she said she’d “work with experts in the field about what amounts are acceptable and what are not … But what I’m very clear about is simple possession and personal use should not be criminalized.”

Her goal, she said: A uniform law across Pennsylvania which doesn’t find different police tactics used in different counties. Currently, in some parts of Pennsylvania, small amount offenders receive just a ticket.

In some spots, like Philadelphia, offenders can still be handcuffed and fingerprinted, but are given the option of paying a fine and going to a drug rehabilitation class instead of being prosecuted. Schwartz also told PW a drug treatment class for simple possession would be unnecessary.

On the medical cannabis bill being pushed by State Sens. Leach and Folmer, Schwartz said: “If it came to my desk, I would be supportive.”

But we didn’t only talk about pot. The interview was very wide-ranging and I’ll be posting the full text on PhillyNow later this week.

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