DELAWARE COUNTY, PA — Delaware County is floating the idea of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and officials are hosting a public hearing on the proposed ordinance.
A public hearing on the ordinance will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14 County Council Public Meeting Room, 201 W. Front St. in Media.
Expert testimony will be given by a panel with a diverse range of expertise, including law enforcement, the legal community, and experts public health.
Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman will serve as a special guest speaker and join the hearing virtually. Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek will serve as moderator.
Each speaker will give testimony followed by a five-minute question and answer period with Council members.
Below are all those who are planned to attend:
Brian Zidek, Delaware County Council Chairman
John Fetterman, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania
Jack Stollsteimer, Delaware County District Attorney
Timothy M. Bernhardt, Superintendent, Upper Darby Police Department
Joseph A. Fitzgerald, President, Fraternal Order of Police, Delaware County Lodge 27
Chris Welsh, Director, Delaware County Public Defender’s Office
Teressa Ravenell, Professor of Law, Villanova University
Dr. Christine Roussel, Pharmacy Director, Doylestown Hospital and Member of Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy
If approved, the ordinance would make purchasing or attempting to purchase, possessing and smoking a small amount of marijuana in any public space a civil violation, rather than a criminal violation. A small amount of marijuana is described as 30 grams or fewer.
A public space is defined in the ordinance as any "street, alley, highway, traffic way, park, sidewalk, or vehicle in or upon any of the referenced areas, or any other place to which the public is invited."
Each violation comes with a $50 civil fine. Revenue collected by fines through the ordinance will be used to fund drug and alcohol abuse treatment and prevention programs.
Violations of the ordinance on school grounds or a public library would still be subject to criminal charges, however. And officers can still choose to treat small amounts of marijuana as criminal cases at their discretion.
The ordinance also has provisions for if and when a minor violates it.
Minors who are caught with small amounts of marijuana will be temporarily detained and their parents or guardians will be notified before a notice of violation is issued to the minor. Minors can also agree to an adjudication alternative and have the fine suspended.
This county-wide ordinance does not apply in any local municipality which has a similar ordinance. Upper Darby and Folcroft have already decriminalized small amounts of marijuana at the local level.
Additionally, the ordinance will not superseded state or federal law and
Residents who do not have access to a computer can request a copy of the proposed Ordinance by contacting the Office of the County Clerk at 610-891-4260.
Residents are invited to attend the hearing and submit public comment in person.
In order to adhere to social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance in the Council Meeting Room is limited.
Those providing public comment will be required to rotate through the room.
Residents will wait in the Government Center Lobby and in the Jury Assembly Room (located on the First Floor of the Government Center) during the hearing and can view the livestream of the hearing from those areas.
Residents will be brought into the Council Room during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The hearing will be streamed live for residents who cannot attend in person.
Residents can email public comments.
Comments will not be read during the hearing and will be reviewed by council following the hearing. Email comments to PublicHearing@co.delaware.pa.us
The Second Reading and Final Adoption of the ordinance is scheduled for the County Council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21. The ordinance will take effect 10 days after it is adopted.