West York mayor looking to lessen penalties for use, possession of marijuana

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WEST YORK, Pa. -- Anyone who uses an ounce or less of marijuana can be charged with a misdemeanor under the current Pennsylvania law.

West York Mayor Shawn Mauck wants to change that for his borough.

Mauck said, "I think there's a lot of things at the local level we could do, and we should do, and we're going to do, and we're not going to wait for Harrisburg and Washington to figure it out."

Mauck introduced an ordinance that would give police options when charging someone with possession or use of marijuana. That ordinance would allow officers to charge users wit ha summary offense instead.

"So they would have the discretion to choose based on the circumstances during the stop," he said.

Offenders would have to pay a fine to the borough, and Mauck said that's better than putting someone in jail.

West York Police Chief Matt Millsaps thinks the ordinance would benefit the whole community.

"It would give us a third tool to use to be able to hold people responsible, yet in the same light be able to serve in more of an educational role," Millsaps said.

Mauck said the response has been positive from the community, but some people have asked how him how the people who smoke pot will learn their lesson.

Mauck said, "We need to be careful on what we mean by a lesson. Do we mean that we want to destroy someone's life and not have them be a productive citizen? I don't think that's what we want to do. I don't think anyone wants to carry the burden of a non-productive individual who can't get a job."

The ordinance would also give officers the opportunity to redirect their drug enforcement officers.

Millsaps said, "I don't think the tax payers for West York want us focusing more than 50 percent of our drug enforcement efforts and our time on marijuana. I think they want to see that less-than 20 percent that we're dedicating right now toward opiates and heroin, I think they want to see that rise to over 50 percent and the marijuana drop. And this would help do that."

Both Mauck and Millsaps want more feedback from the community. Mauck would like the borough to vote on the marijuana ordinance some time next month.