Gov candidate Schwartz: Decriminalize marijuana in PA

schwartz1Only one Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate supports the full legalization of marijuana, but the rest could probably be split up into who’s for decriminalizing small amounts of the stuff, and who isn’t.

During a lengthy discussion with Philadelphia Weekly on Monday, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz revealed that not only is she in favor of medical marijuana at the state level, but she’d be open to decriminalizing simple possession of the plant, as well, if she were governor.

“I do believe that marijuana is over-criminalized. And what we should do is decriminalize possession,” she said.

Largely considered the frontrunner in the race for Pennsylvania’s Democratic nomination, Schwartz has basically ignored the marijuana issue, until now. She noted that she is “not where John Hanger is” — a reference to the former environmental secretary running for governor who seeks to recreationalize the plant, a la Colorado and Washington — but would support a new system in Pennsylvania in which those caught with small amounts of marijuana are not arrested and do not earn a criminal record from smoking it.

So, what’s the plan, exactly? What amount of pot could one possess in the state without being thrown in jail? That’s where the specifics end. Schwartz didn’t get into how she’d go about decriminalizing small amounts of the plant, or even what would be defined as a “small amount.” Rather, as governor, she said she’d “work with experts in the field about what amounts are acceptable and what are not … But what I’m very clear about is simple possession and personal use should not be criminalized.”

Her goal, she said: A uniform law across Pennsylvania which doesn’t find different police tactics used in different counties. Currently, in some parts of Pennsylvania, small amount offenders receive just a ticket.

In some spots, like Philadelphia, offenders can still be handcuffed and fingerprinted, but are given the option of paying a fine and going to a drug rehabilitation class instead of being prosecuted. Schwartz also told PW a drug treatment class for simple possession would be unnecessary.

On the medical cannabis bill being pushed by State Sens. Leach and Folmer, Schwartz said: “If it came to my desk, I would be supportive.”

But we didn’t only talk about pot. The interview was very wide-ranging and I’ll be posting the full text on PhillyNow later this week.

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16 Responses to “ Gov candidate Schwartz: Decriminalize marijuana in PA ”

  1. Tom says:

    Mrs. Schwartz, we’re not buying this vote grab.

    You practically rolled your eyes whenever Hanger talked about this at any forum.

  2. [...] Randy LoBasso reports on what appears to be a genuine position change from Allyson Schwartz. Good for the Congresswoman, this position makes sense, and voters are increasingly moving in this direction. Hopefully she’ll elaborate some more in the coming months: During a lengthy discussion withPhiladelphia Weekly on Monday, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz revealed that not only is she in favor of medical marijuana at the state level, but she’d be open to decriminalizing simple possession of the plant, as well, if she were governor. [...]

  3. Roger Cohen says:

    Decriminalization is less than a half-loaf because it leaves too much in place that is drastically wrong with the current unjust and ineffective prohibition on marijuana. First, it leaves the marijuana trade in the hands of the black market, controlled by criminals, and in close proximity to the truly dangerous drugs like heroine, coke and crack that these criminal cartels sell. Second, it fails to deliver on the economic development potential of legal, commercial hemp and recreational marijuana available in a regulated and taxed retail outlet similar to beer or wine . This is equivalent to walking away from thousands of new jobs, and tens-to-hundreds of millions in additional tax revenues, and new products and markets around industrial hemp. Finally, the experience in NYC under Mayor Bloomberg demonstrates that decriminalization is not a bar to police targeting of certain populations. Despite the NYC decrim law dating back to the late 1970s, there were 400,000 marijuana arrests in New York under Bloomberg, the huge bulk of them of African-American and Latino males carrying small quantities for personal use. Only full legalization along the lines of Colorado, Washington or soon, Alaska, will be adequate to end this madness.

  4. David Corner says:

    Decriminalization is a half-baked solution and a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t really decriminalize anything; it just transfers the burden to the dealers, who after all are only responding to market forces. And since dealing is still illegal you will actually get an increase in crime and a corresponding increase in profits for organized crime, because consumers are even more willing to possess the substance since it poses no risk to them.

    The only way to fix the mess this country has made of its drug policy is to legalize drugs, starting with marijuana which due to its harmlessness should be available to all adults. Other “harder” drugs should be available to addicts with a physician’s prescription. Instead of jailing drug addicts, they should be channeled towards treatment.

    The drug war has failed. We should try drug peace next.

  5. wolf says:

    Now that John Hanger has suport,And he put his politcal career on the line.with medical marijuana/legalization.And is doing well.this hake Allyson Schwartz is thoughting around words like med marijuana,But has no plan or conviction.So dont be decived by the fox in the hen house.Vote for John Hanger……….

  6. Chris says:


    In 2013, John Hanger and Les Stark both predicted and announced this would happen: marijuana would gain in popularity, Hanger’s People’s Campaign would shock the elites, and the other candidates would change their position of marijuana just to get more votes.

    Schwartz and the other democrats have no education on this subject and no plan to legalize. She is changing her position because John Hanger made this an important issue for this election. Do not be deceived. John Hanger was the first, and he is still the strongest candidate for governor.

    Elect John Hanger if you want a LEADER; ignore the other followers as they lie to our faces and try to follow John Hanger as he runs away with this race.


  7. Matt says:

    This is a half-baked plan by Schwartz. Full legalization is the only way to go. Vote for Hanger.

  8. Sheri says:

    Where in PA do people only receive a ticket for small amounts of marijuana?

  9. John says:

    I cannot obtain a CCW because I was arrested and prosecuted for misdemeanor possetion of marijuana paraphernalia 17 years ago. I’m essentially treated as a felon in the state of PA in regards to my second ammendment rights. A lot more needs to be done that decriminalization. – which will only allow a thriving black market.

  10. Nathan says:

    Schwartz recently voted against an anti-NSA bill, as well. “The U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure our nation’s security while respecting the constitutional rights of all Americans,” Schwartz said. “I strongly believe that we must aggressively intercept terrorists’ communications, track their whereabouts, disrupt their plans and eliminate threats. I opposed Rep. Amash’s amendment because it did not achieve the critical balance between national security and civil liberties.”

  11. [...] DEM GOV FRONTRUNNER BACKS LEGAL POT“During a extensive contention with Philadelphia Weekly on Monday, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz [D-Pa.] suggested that not usually is she in preference of [...]

  12. David Corner says:

    “I do believe that marijuana is over-criminalized. And what we should do is decriminalize possession,” she said.

    That is an extremely naive stance taken by someone with mere superficial knowledge of the issue. If this represents the amount of homework she does before adopting all of her positions then there is no way in Hades that that woman should be trusted in the governor’s mansion.

    I would like to throw my support behind someone who takes a thoughtful and well-reasoned approach to government.

  13. Connie says:

    Every parent in PA AND in our nation should be VERY concerned about what the democrats are trying to do on the POT issue. If you have small children today & think it won’t affect your kids you are fooling yourselves. When kids become teens, parents & kids have LOTS of issues – drugs are one of them. Most good parents DO NOT want their kids smoking pot or using drugs or drinking alcohol. Democrats want to legalize any/everything, keep people from being held accountable for their own choices; they want to control the doped up masses they hope they can create by legalizing POT. EVERY drug addict started their addiction with POT. My nephew started his drug habit with POT at age 14 and by the time he was 22 he was DEAD from o/d on heroin. So think about it parents. DRUGS kill many and legalizing a mind altering substance (on top of alcohol) WON’T lead to anything but bad.

  14. pufferfish says:

    @connie: i am sorry you lost a loved one to heroin, but you know not every pot user moves on to harder stuff. also, booze kills & that’s legal, so why not weed?

  15. Rich says:

    Alcohol and cigarettes are the leading cause of death, BOTH LEGAL AND HAVE NO BENEFIT FROM USE OF THEM. Medical marijuana has benefits, yet it is illegal. Why???

  16. [...] this might be about to change.  All of the Democratic candidates for governor support decriminalization and John Hanger favors legalization. It remains to be seen whether these positions will survive the [...]

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