|You’ll soon be able to have a little weed here and not be a criminal.|
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says he will finally sign a measure decriminalizing up to 30 grams of pot in the City of Brotherly Love that City Council approved back in June. His only demand: he still wants to waste the time of the courts with pot tickets.
The original draft approved by council made possession 30 grams or less akin to a parking ticket in that you could simply mail in your $25 fine. Nutter is okay with keeping the $25 fine and keeping it off of people’s records, but wants to make the offense a “non-summary” charge that requires an appearance before a city judge.
Councilman Jim Kenney, who sponsored the law, says that he can agree to the move because it still means Philadelphia cops have to make cannabis a low priority for enforcement. Kenney says he will amend the bill for an initial vote this Thursday when the Council starts their fall session. A final vote would be needed the following week before it could be sent to Nutter’s office.
“There’s no more handcuffs, no more bookings, no more criminal record,” he tells CBS Philly. “Police will not have to leave their posts and go to the station house to deal with this. People will pay a fine based on the offense: $25 for the possession of anything under an ounce.”
He went on to point out that the move will help stop the criminalization of huge chunks of the city’s population that are often black and minorities unfairly targeted for pot enforcement.
“There will be no criminal record for an individual. And that’s a major step,” Kenney notes. “We have so many people that we are putting in the prison pipeline, and the poverty pipeline, because a criminal record is a debilitating thing.”
Pastor Darrell Robinson, a local youth advocate, testified before council earlier this year about how marijuana laws were ruining the lives of black kids in his congregations. He says police have enforced marijuana laws as a way to profile them and harass the community. An ACLU study in 2013 showed that 84.4 percent of people arrested for pot in Philly are black despite blacks comprising only 43.3 percent of the city. Whites make up 36.9 percent of the city’s population but account for only 5.8 percent of all pot possession arrests.
“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.”
The bill also makes smoking pot in public a civil offense with a fine of up to $100 that could be waived for community service.
Currently, the possession of 30 grams or less of herb in the state of Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor crime with up to $500 in fines and a month of your life in jail.