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Fact: State College Borough Council approved an ordinance that gives officers the option to charge an individual with a summary offense instead of a misdemeanor for the possession of a small amount of marijuana. The ordinance only applies in the Borough of State College and marijuana is still illegal in ALL municipalities of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The ordinance goes into effect in September of 2016. On the Penn State University campus, University police must still follow federal and state laws that consider marijuana use and possession a misdemeanor. Also, the ordinance does not apply in Harris and College Township where State College Police also have jurisdiction. Under the State College Borough ordinance, police can charge a person in possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana with a summary offense that carries a fine of $250. They can also charge a person caught using marijuana a summary offense that carries a fine of $350. While the ordinance allows State College Police the flexibility to bring a lesser charge when possession occurs in the Borough, it does not legalize marijuana. Under Pennsylvania State Law, possession of a small amount of marijuana is illegal and can be charged as a misdemeanor. State College Police officers will still have the option to charge a student with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A convicted individual will also face driver’s license suspension, a criminal record and the risk of losing federal student aid. In addition, the new ordinance does not cover paraphernalia, which still carries a misdemeanor charge. Paraphernalia can include any object used to ingest, store or use marijuana. Possession of drug paraphernalia is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Students using or possessing marijuana on- or off-campus are also subject to disciplinary sanctions from the Office of Student Conduct. Code of Conduct sanctions are separate from any legal charges and can be generated whether a student receives a summary offense, or state or federal charges. Penn State Student Legal Services, a unit of Student Affairs, has posted FAQs on its website to provide students with more information on the ordinance.