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October 10, 2017

Reading's mayor reportedly stormed out of City Council meeting over marijuana resolution

The mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania, was reportedly so appalled with a City Council resolution on the criminal classification of marijuana that he and members of his administration walked out when it passed.

The bill, according to Council meeting minutes, was one "encouraging the State Legislature to enact State-wide legislation that would provide all police departments with the discretion to charge the possession of a small amount of marijuana as a summary offense, rather than a misdemeanor."

According to the Reading Eagle, council members had been pushing a different resolution that would allow city police to treat marijuana as a summary offense. But Mayor Wally Scott said he would tell police not to enforce the measure because it conflicts with state law.

So, members introduced the new resolution encouraging the state legislature to make their proposal state law. At Monday's meeting, Scott appealed to council members and asked them not to pass it. Per WFMZ:

Before the vote, Scott gave an impassioned plea against the resolution. He said he’s seen what marijuana has done to families and that it is not a victimless crime.

“[Marijuana] is destroying America, and this is something you shouldn’t even be encouraging,” he said.

Scott accused council members of being out of their element.

“This is something that somebody thinks is a popular vote. I think you’re all going to get smacked in the end," he said.

The resolution still passed 4-2, which prompted Scott to lament that it was a "sad day" in Reading. He interrupted the reading of the next resolution and claimed council members "walked into the homes of people and you passed something here that is terrible." Scott also questioned whether those who voted in favor really represented the people of Reading, according to the Eagle, before he and members of his administration abruptly left the meeting.

As for those who supported it, Councilman John Slifko said a young person's life shouldn't be ruined because of a small amount of pot, according to WFMZ. Slifko also noted the resolution didn't decriminalize or condone marijuana use.

Both council members who voted against it, Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. and Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz, said they agreed with making possession of small amounts a summary offense, but Waltman wanted stiffer penalties for dealers, while Goodman-Hinnershitz had issues with some of the language in the resolution.

It should be noted that ultimately, no change in law was passed, as it was simply a request to the state legislature.