On a vote of 13 to 3, the Philadelphia City Council yesterday approved decriminalizing up to 30 grams of herb within city limits, making the penalty a $25 fine.
Mayor Michael Nutter has been vocally opposed to loosening marijuana laws in the city, but a coalition of council members are now calling on him to approve the bill due to the overwhelming support. As it stands, the mayor can either veto or sign the bill, or he can do nothing and let the law go into effect without his endorsement. He could also apparently wait until September when council returns for the fall session to do anything.
“We’re writing a letter to the mayor asking him, since the voice of council has been heard and the bill has been approved by more than 12 members, that he begin implementing the bill and policy change as soon as possible,” said Jim Engler, director of legislation for Councilman Jim Kenny who sponsored the measure.
Several people signed up to testify before the bill’s passage, including Pastor Darrell Robinson who spoke of how marijuana laws were ruining the lives of black kids in his congregations who happened to get busted with some pot because police used it as a way to profile them and harass the community. Statistics show he isn’t stretching the truth either.
“As you have heard we have two young people here who were not only arrested for a small amount of weed, but the rest of their lives are jeopardized,” he said. “Their future is jeopardized. Their ability to make money and live a decent life in the city is jeopardized because of a small amount of weed.”
From the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“In Philadelphia, our recent analysis of city-wide marijuana arrest data, performed as part of our stop-and-frisk lawsuit, showed the same pattern. 84.4 per cent of people arrested in Philadelphia for marijuana possession were black (43.4 per cent of the population) while white people (36.9 per cent of the population) comprised only 5.8 per cent of the arrests. Oh, and guess who was arrested in the predominantly white areas of the Philadelphia. Yeah, mostly black people.”
Original story, 6/19/14: The City of Brotherly Love could soon become the City of Stoned Brotherly Love as the Philadelphia City Council is expected to vote today on a measure that would decriminalize a little more than an ounce of pot.
The measure, pushed by Councilman Jim Kenney, would make the possession of up to 30 grams of pot a civil penalty punishable by a fine of $25. Those busted could even pay the fine right then and there.
As it stands now, those caught with an ounce or less likely won’t face jail time but they do have to go through the court system and the infraction stays in their records. Most cases result in a $300 fine and a required drug counseling course.
Kenney’s proposal would wipe the infraction from a person’s record once the fines have been paid.
The plan, known quite blandly as Ordinance 140377, is aimed at cutting law enforcement costs and waste. Kenney told NBC Philadelphia that if council approves the measure it would save some 17,000 of police time and up to $3 million in jail and court costs.
Kenney tells CBS Philly that he has the nine votes needed to pass the measure and possibly more.
“I would like to get twelve or more to make it a veto-proof majority, and then make an argument to the administration that they should do something on an executive order level, to stop this from happening during the summer, where we could have another 300-400 kids arrested in July and August,” Kenney said.
The mayor’s office, however, is against the plan. They argue that provisions allowing police to still file criminal charges will mean the law is enforced unfairly.