Penalty for Alcohol and Marijuana Offenses Unrelated to Recent Research

A recent study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology concluded that Alcohol is more than twice as harmful as cannabis to users and that increased policing of marijuana usage results in only the criminalization of young people with no significant reduction in Health related risks.  Although this study is based on United Kingdom research, the conclusion is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suggested the rate of alcohol and marijuana consumption is increasing although resultant injuries are only increasing in children that consume alcohol.  One study even suggests that the driving after imbibing alcohol is more dangerous than driving after imbibing marijuana and legalization of marijuana has the benefits of reduced alcohol purchase and consumption and reduction in vehicle related accidents and fatalities.

In Pennsylvania, the penalties for alcohol crimes compared to Marijuana crimes are disproportionately harsh considering the above conclusions.  The purchase and consumption of alcohol for an adult twenty-one or older is not a crime, yet the possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor with penalties including potential incarceration, a driver’s license suspension, fines and court costs, and probation.  The penalties increase based on the amount of marijuana possessed and can be as high as a felony.

Driving after imbibing crimes are similarly unequal.  While Driving after imbibing alcohol has increasing penalties based on the amount of alcohol in the system of the accused, driving with controlled substances, like marijuana, is always classified as a highest rate offense which includes the harshest penalties and criminal classification.

Although State Sen. Daylin Leach has proposed the “Regulate Marijuana Act” — Senate Bill 528 which details the lawful possession of marijuana by adults twenty-one or older, and the lawful cultivation of marijuana, the bill does not address the disparate treatment of the driving after imbibing offenses of alcohol and marijuana.