Oct. 21—Beginning soon, those convicted of crimes involving small amounts of marijuana in the city of Meadville will pay much less of a penalty. Exactly how soon remained a source of confusion, however.
Meadville City Council members on Wednesday night unanimously approved the third and final reading of an ordinance that lets city police charge possession of a small amount of marijuana as a summary offense. Such crimes, involving up to 30 grams or slightly more than an ounce of marijuana, are currently charged as misdemeanors under the state criminal code. The change will also apply to charges of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Instead of facing fines, fees and legal costs in the thousands of dollars, those found guilty of summary offenses will face a $300 fine, interim City Manager Maryann Menanno told council in earlier discussions of the proposal.
The brief discussion of the ordinance Wednesday centered on when it will take effect. City ordinances typically go into effect 21 days after passage by council, but Deputy City Clerk Katie Wickert said the particular statute involved meant the new law would go into effect in 10 days.
According to the text of the ordinance passed by council and advertised by the city in the Oct. 13 edition of the Tribune, it will take effect in 21 days.
Gary Alizzeo, the city's attorney, described the possible confusion over when the ordinance would take effect as "nonsubstantive" and said council could pass the measure and determine in the coming days exactly when it would take effect.
As a result, either by the end of the month or mid-November, those convicted under the new ordinance will face what Meadville Police Department Chief Michael Tautin described as equivalent to a traffic citation instead of a misdemeanor, which he said could affect the ability of those convicted to find employment or qualify for loans.
Passage of the ordinance does not mark the last time council will deal with the new law. One requirement of the measure is that the police chief report to council for each of the next three years on its implementation.
Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.