MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Morgantown City Council has voted unanimously, 7-0, to modify the city’s law on marijuana possession of up to 15 grams.
The ordinance now gives the Morgantown Police Department the discretion to forgo arresting someone caught with 15 grams or less and to instead issue them a fine of no more than $15. This is according to councilwoman and deputy mayor Rachel Fetty who said the amendment to the law is not the same as decriminalizing the drug.
Fetty said the council has good intentions and wants to make progress on the front of lowering or at least not contributing to the incarceration rate in the state and country.
“It does not seem fair on the face of it that people are being prosecuted for small amounts of marijuana when we have legalized and created an entire industry around the possession and prescribing of opiates which are significantly stronger drug,” Fetty explained. “We are trying to do our small part, but I hope the public will take the steps that they need to take to become adequately informed about what they can and cannot have on their person in the city of Morgantown before they come.”
Fetty advises residents and visitors alike to learn the new law and not “go out and just carry a joint thinking that this is all going to work out for you in the end” because Morgantown is not a “haven for marijuana possession”.
The difficulty with section 529.99 (c), which is the section that has been added to the Morgantown marijuana possession ordinance, is that there are “overlapping jurisdictions” Fetty said.
By this, she means West Virginia University Police, Monongalia Co. Sheriff’s Department and the West Virginia State Police will all still enforce the state law by arresting and prosecuting anyone at the state level that is found in possession of marijuana.
“It’s very important that people understand that the city of Morgantown does not have the ability to decriminalize the possession of marijuana,” Fetty stated. She added that if you feel strongly that marijuana should be legalized or it should not be the proper folks to contact are your state representatives.
There is currently proposed legislation that is going to be considered by the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate that will hopefully that will address this issue the councilwoman said.
Another clarification that is important to make, Fetty said, is that the amendment only applies to the marijuana plant and nothing else.
“It does not include processed marijuana,” Fetty said. “It does not include processed cannabis, it does not include anything that would fall into the category of a manufactured drug.”