Officials in Folcroft, Delaware County, have voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, making the town the first in the suburban county to take such a step.
A measure unanimously approved by the seven-member borough council at a meeting late Monday changes the penalty for carrying less than 30 grams of marijuana or eight grams of hashish from an arrest to a $100 fine, according to Borough Manager Andrew Hayman.
“We believe it was inappropriate for officers to be arresting residents for possession, and giving them criminal records, when a fine would be more appropriate for personal use,” Hayman said Tuesday. “This allows us to allocate resources in other areas.”
Folcroft’s council flipped to a Democratic majority in 2019, following a trend seen countywide in the historic election year. The measure was a priority for the new members, and was initially discussed at a meeting in March, according to Council President Joseph Papaleo.
The coronavirus pandemic delayed the vote until Monday, he said.
“We’ve seen enough of young people, especially people of color, being brought through the criminal justice system for minimal marijuana possession, and it was something I didn’t want to see happen here,” Papaleo said. “It seemed like an unjust thing. And I thought the effects and danger of marijuana are minimal, compared even to alcohol.”
Papaleo said the measure was supported by the borough’s police department, and that its senior officers provided input on its language.
Officials were also supported in their efforts by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, who said Tuesday that Folcroft is “ahead of the curve.”
“When I came into office, one initiative we wanted to explore was stopping arresting people for using marijuana,” he said. “And I’m finding that there is widespread support for that.”
Stollsteimer said there are tentative plans for the County Council to introduce legislation this fall that would support decriminalization in other municipalities.