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Home » blog » What does decriminalizing drugs mean?

There is a move across the country to decriminalize drugs, which means to lessen penalties for certain drug classes. The reason behind it is that supporters believe it will lower drug crimes and help prevent prison overpopulation. 

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, many towns in Pennsylvania have decriminalized marijuana. 

The Effects 

When a town decides to decriminalize marijuana, it usually decreases the penalties to fines and no jail time for possession of small amounts of the drug. However, it still remains up to the discretion of the officer as to whether to arrest you or not. 

So, an officer may place you under arrest, and you may have to spend the night in jail. When you go before the judge, though, he or she will likely release you. You will then return for your hearing, which will result in a fine under the decriminalization laws. 

The Issues 

Arrests rates for drugs are still very high in the state even after decriminalization, and the reason why you may still face arrest is that there has been no change in state law. Under state law, officers must arrest you for possession of any amount. Even though local law tells them not to arrest you, it is the officer’s decision on what to do because of the conflicting laws. 

Similarly, federal law also takes a harsh stance on the drug, but lucky, possession of a small amount of marijuana will not usually trigger federal agents to make an arrest. 

Also, it is worth noting that reports of arrests often do not involve an actual arrest. Some officers report arresting a person when all they did was stop them or confiscate drugs, so the arrest numbers may not accurately reflect what is happening.