(Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press file)

Pennsylvania prisons spend millions to house less than 100 pot offenders

Pennsylvania, a state that is contemplating medical marijuana legalization, is currently spending millions of dollars annually for its state prisons to house fewer than 100 nonviolent inmates serving time on cannabis charges.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections currently houses 97 people imprisoned on marijuana charges, costing taxpayers around $2.5 million annually — or $25,700 annually per inmate — according to the state’s auditor general Eugene DePasquale.

DePasquale recently encouraged the legislature to pass the medical marijuana-legalizing Senate Bill 3, pointing toward patients who lack access to medical cannabis but also the nonviolent inmates facing pot charges and racking up jail bills for taxpayers, according to The York Daily Record.

“I think it’s the right thing to do for people,” DePasquale told the Daily Record. “Whether it’s $2 or $2.5 million, it is a waste of money, in my opinion, to arrest people for this.”

As the Daily Record reported:

There are no nonviolent marijuana offenders in Philadelphia’s prison facilities, according to Shawn Hawes, public information officer for the Philadelphia Prison System. The city decriminalized marijuana in October 2014, making possession of small amounts of marijuana — 30 grams or less — punishable by a citation and $25 fine.

Treatment programs and probation are a more effective way to deal with nonviolent marijuana offenders, said Wes Kahley, York City Police chief.

“We need to focus on putting violent criminals in jail, not nonviolent offenders,” he said.

While he admitted he’s not an expert on marijuana being used as medicine, Kahley said if it could be a treatment for people who are sick, we should find a way to make that available. But full legalization of the drug, Kahley said, is not the right way.

“Most crimes have a proponent of alcohol and drugs,” he said.