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Casual Marijuana Use: Crime or Civil Infraction?


The Jefferson Educational Society hosts panel discussion – “Casual Marijuana Use: Crime or Civil Infraction?”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

                                                                                                                                                Martin Luther King Jr.

William A. West

ERIE_The Jefferson Educational Society’s panel discussion “Casual Marijuana Use: Crime or Civil Infraction?” featured four panel members and covered a wide range of topics during its Thursday, Oct. 26 program at the JES Auditorium. The panel participants were State Rep. Ed Gainey, D – 24th District, Allegheny County, Nicole Shoenberger, Ph.D., Penn State University – The Behrend College, Rev. Dale B. Snyder Sr., St. James AME Church, Erie, and Dr. Michael Balsan, Pediatrics Department chair, UPMC Hamot.

ErieCurrent / William A. West
Rep. Ed Gainey, 24th District, Allegheny County, Pa.

ErieCurrent / William A. West
Nicole Shoenberger, Ph.D., professor, Penn State University, The Behrend College.

ErieCurrent / William A. West
Rev. Dale Snyder Sr., St. James A.M.E. Church, Erie, Pa.

ErieCurrent / William A. West
Dr. Michael Balsan, Pediatrics Department chair, UPMC Hamot.

The moderator was Marcus Atkinson, ServErie executive director, program director for the Downtown YMCA Teen Center, WQLN Radio producer and host of NEXT. Activist Art Leopold gave the opening and closing remarks.
The panel took on the subjects of decriminalization or legalization of casual marijuana use, the incarceration rates of drug users, particularly the rate for persons of color, medical marijuana, zoning issues, privatization of our prison system, rehabilitation efforts and the effects on families and children when a parent is incarcerated for the use of marijuana.



Please click on the image below to view video presentation.

For Reference

Mass Incarceration

* The U.S. has five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of those incarcerated in the world.
* In the U.S., at any one time, there are 11 million people involved in the criminal justice system; there are about 2.4 million individuals in prison.
* People of color make up about 38 percent of the U.S. population; people of color make up close to 60 percent of the prison population.
*Individuals convicted of low-level drug charges make up nearly 25 percent of those currently incarcerated; a 13-fold increase since 1980.
*U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D – N.J., and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D – Conn., introduced the Reverse Incarceration Act of 2017 to encourage states to make a substantial change in arrests and prison population.


Marijuana arrests in Pennsylvania

* About 144,000 of the nearly 180,000 marijuana-related arrests made were for possession from 2010 to 2016.
* Marijuana arrests increased close to 25 percent from 2010 to 2016; the arrest rate for adults rose about 33 percent for the same time period.
*Black Americans were 8.2 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in 2016.
* Decriminalization efforts have resulted in a decline of marijuana possession arrests by 88 percent since 2014 in Philadelphia.

                                                                       Cannabis Crackdown Report, ACLU Pennsylvania 2017


State Rep. Ed Gainey, D – 24th District, Allegheny County, introduced H.B. 195 in 2017 to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Pennsylvania.

The event’s co-sponsors were, Adult Education Committee of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie, Keystone Progress, Erie County United, Erie Branch NAACP, Social Action Committee of Temple Anshe Hesed and the Northwest PA Chapter of the ACLU.

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency now. There is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” 

Martin Luther King Jr.



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