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Pennsylvania stops taking drivers’ licenses from drug offenders


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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill recently that stops convicted drug offenders who were not operating a vehicle when they were arrested from having their license suspended over the conviction. This has been a problem for thousands of residents in the state.

“The suspension of a person’s driver’s license for offenses not related to driving has always been illogical and counter-productive,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “A driver’s license is essential for functioning in daily life for many people, especially in areas of the commonwealth where public transportation is limited. And with vast racial and economic disparities in the criminal justice system, this policy has disproportionately impacted people of color and the working poor.”

Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Patrick K. Nightingale told Cannabis News Box people of color are more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession, despite the fact white people use cannabis just as much. This is a problem throughout the country.

“Anyone who needs a vehicle to drive to work was certainly hurt by license suspensions,” Nightingale said. “It’s one thing to live in a City with good public transportation… but for anyone in one of our more rural counties a license suspension for possessing a ‘small amount of marijuana’ can be devastating.”

Nightingale said the drug offense has nothing to do with driving, so there’s no reason for someone to lose their license. He called it “draconian” that Pennsylvania was doing this in the first place. Nightingale supports the full legalization of cannabis, which would help fix issues like this one. He’s also worried about medical cannabis patients receiving DUIs in the state.

“Under PA law, currently, any THC metabolites in the blood are sufficient to sustain a conviction regardless of whether there is any evidence of impairment,” he said. For medical patients who use cannabis daily, that means they’re always breaking the law when they drive, even if they haven’t used cannabis for many hours. Cannabis takes so long to leave the body that this is a huge problem for many patients.

Some lawmakers in Pennsylvania are currently pushing for the legalization of cannabis in the state, which is supported by roughly 60 percent of its residents. Unfortunately, the governor is not behind this idea, but he does support decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis. Advocates hope the governor will change his mind about legalization because he looks almost sure to win reelection this month.

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