WILKES-BARRE -- Wilkes-Barre now has a new city council chairperson and vice chairperson. They were sworn in Tuesday night at City Hall.
On the top of their agenda is a big change that could impact how marijuana possession is prosecuted in the Luzerne County court system.
Wilkes-Barre's new council chairperson Beth Gilbert is now in her second year on city council. She wants to start this year on a high note by decriminalizing marijuana. In other words, no jail time if someone is found with a small amount of marijuana.
Gilbert tells Newswatch 16 she's been working with city administration and the police department for months, trying to come up with an ordinance that would downgrade small amounts of marijuana to a summary offense.
Many people, like Charlie Sokolas, think decriminalizing weed would give police more time to go after harder drug dealers.
"I was arrested for a possession charge a while ago," said Sokolas. "There's more crime in heroin and that other stuff. Catch them!"
But the Luzerne County district attorney's office points out Wilkes-Barre City Council has a big legal hurdle if it wants to decriminalize marijuana.
"It is illegal to possess, to use marijuana by state law, so I don't know how they have the authority to do that," explained Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.
Still, other legal experts point out decriminalizing marijuana could be hashed out in the courts.
"I can see if the city really tries to push that and take a more progressive approach, you may see some litigation," said attorney Jonathan Comitz.
Gilbert is still working on writing the ordinance. It could mirror that of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where people just receive fines for possessing or smoking small amounts of marijuana.
"I actually think that's a better idea because all the jails are packed," said Robin Cool of Wilkes-Barre.
"I think there should be regulations and stipulations, but I believe decriminalization is no big thing. It's a long time coming," said John Klotz of Wilkes-Barre.
Wilkes-Barre's council vice chairperson was also sworn in Tuesday night. Tony Brooks also supports some kind of decriminalization of marijuana.