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Lancaster City votes to decriminalize marijuana

A crowded room at Lancaster City Council erupting in applause as the board voted 6-1 in favor of decriminalization of marijuana.

“What we are trying to do is make sure that nobody suffers long term effects from this. We want to be in line with the rest of the state, and frankly, the rest of the country and I think this really takes a step in that direction," said council president James Reichenbach.

At the meeting, the board agreed on an amendment to the ordinance, which changes possession or usage of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a summary offense.

Now, people in possession of the drug or paraphernalia will be fined $25 for the first and second offense, and $50 for the third.

The fines can be substituted with four hours of community service.

Those caught using the drug publicly will pay a $75 fine for the first offense, $100 for the second, and a $125 fine for the third, all of which can be replaced with eight hours of community service.

“I reiterate we are not trying to circumvent state law. This is within our purview. We’re not on our way to legalization in the city. That’s not in our purview. We are not even thinking about that right now,” said Reichenbach.

Some people we spoke with think decriminalizing the drug is a step forward for the community.

"You shouldn’t go to jail over a joint when people are doing way worse than that. You don’t have to go to jail for that," said one Lancaster resident.

Others, though, have their concerns.

"That’s just like saying, why not legalize cocaine or crack?” said another resident.

Including one council member...the only one to vote against the ordinance.

"My concern is that they have basically bogged down the fines. $25, anybody can say, 'Oh it’s just a slap on the wrist. I can pay this.' If they can afford to buy any type of marijuana or any type of drug, they are going to be able to pay this fine. That’s what my concern is," said Janet Diaz, a Lancaster city council member.

The city will do yearly assessments to make sure the ordinance is implemented fairly.

The first assessment will happen six months from now.