In a unanimous vote this week, the Delaware County Council decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.
The measure, approved by the all-Democratic governing board at their meeting Wednesday, changes the penalty for possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana to a health violation that carries a $50 fine. It also applies to buying the substance, possessing paraphernalia related to marijuana, and smoking small amounts of marijuana in a public space.
The decision came a few weeks after the council convened a public hearing to discuss the possibility, an event that drew hundreds of residents, mostly in support, but some against, the proposal.
It also comes as four towns in the county — Upper Darby, Morton, Collingdale, and Folcroft — have told local police not to arrest people for marijuana possession.
County council member Kevin Madden, in announcing his support of the measure, said the new ordinance would bring consistency to the county, and eliminate confusion for residents living in or near municipalities that took similar steps.
“Our action tonight isn’t a statement advocating for the use of marijuana, Madden said at the meeting. “It’s a recognition that we now have over 40 years of evidence that shows that the war on drugs isn’t working, not in its current state. We’ve seen that making a substance illegal doesn’t stop people from using it."
Madden said the negative aspects of enforcing the law — the creation of a criminal record, which in turn may hinder job or student loan applications — outweigh criminal prosecution. He also said the change will free criminal justice resources for pursuing more serious crimes.