A Democratic state senator who's a candidate for lieutenant governor is proposing to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Two measures authored by Senator Mike Stack of Philadelphia would reduce the penalties for having less than an ounce of marijuana and make it easier for people convicted on marijuana charges to have their records cleared.

Stack called decriminalization a "no-brainer," given the hundreds of people sentenced to state jails every year and the thousands sent to county prisons for drug-related convictions.   

"There is a fiscally conservative approach to this whole issue. It doesn't appear that the billions of dollars we've spent in imprisoning generations of people is working."

The measures face long odds in the state Senate.

Stack said his proposals are an attempt to appeal to fiscal conservatives.

"It's just a no-brainer that too often our criminal justice system is being backlogged by this type of crime and we need to decriminalize it and reduce it to say a summary offense. It's going to save us billions of dollars in criminal justice expenses and prison costs."

Democratic proposals to legalize marijuana have languished for years without so much as a nod from the GOP majority, and a spokesman says there are no plans to take up decriminalization.

But a bipartisan push to legalize a certain kind of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania has stoked debate over Pennsylvania's drug laws.

Stack said he thinks support for medical marijuana is growing, and decriminalization could be the next step.