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Philadelphia could save $3 million annually by ending marijuana mug shots

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator November 19, 2009

    (PhillyNORML: Chris Goldstein & Derek Rosenzweig) Philadelphia could save more than $3,000,000 annually by not taking pot smokers in for mugshots.

    Minor marijuana possession arrests in Philadelphia are handled with mandatory custody; this is a different process than every other county in Pennsylvania costing the city millions of dollars. A disproportionate number of citizens (84%) arrested for marijuana possession in the city are black.

    Research by PhillyNORML this year has uncovered these two disturbing trends that present serious challenges to the city. But in a sign of a pragmatic shift in attitudes, city officials have held an ongoing dialogue with reform advocates to proactively address these concerns.

    In March of 2009 the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws performed their annual observation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report data for the marijuana arrest numbers. At the same time, the city was beginning to face a heartbreaking economic plight that pitted police jobs against a lack of Public Safety Budget funds.

    Data indicates that 4,716 adults were arrested in 2008 on the singular criminal misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession less than 30 grams. In Philadelphia such arrests are required to be custodial. For even a single cannabis joint this means an offender must be handcuffed, transported to a holding cell, photographed and perhaps make bail before release. In every other county in Pennsylvania there is no mandate for the custodial arrest of citizens found with small amounts of marijuana. Instead, summary violations are issued along with a date to appear in court.

    PhillyNORML is a sterling example of how ordinary cannabis consumers can band together under the NORML banner and affect real change at the local level. Reformers at the national level don’t have the on-the-ground knowledge of local politics like everyday citizens living in cities like Philadelphia. Local reformers can better cultivate personal relationships with mayors, city councils, and all their staff, as well as integrate with groups as disparate as unions and libertarian groups, parents and police, and churches and universities.

    If you’re sitting around wondering when they are going to legalize pot, you’re part of the problem. YOU have to legalize pot. You and your like-minded pot smokers, cannabis consumers, medical marijuana patients, and lovers of liberty, peaceably assembled to exercise your free speech and to petition your government for a redress of grievances… there’s nothing more American than being NORML.

    23 Responses to “Philadelphia could save $3 million annually by ending marijuana mug shots”

    1. Jesse says:

      Exercise your free speech… I’m with you. You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry

    2. Jesse says:

      For all of you at NORML, I’m just grateful that you all have the courage to stand up for what’s clearly right. The disproportionate number of citizens (84%) arrested for marijuana possession in Philly are black. And how are you supposed to defend yourself against the charges if you a young black person who is being stripped of one’s rights. It’s true that for too long our leaders in Washington have not seen the reality that their legislation causes on the ground level. I agree that things need to be done from the ground up. This is our chance to affect positive change in our communities, and I think the best thing we can do is to educate those around us about these realities. I just wish more people got the message. This isn’t just about marijuana, it’s about reforming a system that disproportionately affects minorities. Thank you

    3. A helping hand says:

      I’ve posted me story about the philly cops that slammed my head into my trunk for less than one gram of marijuana. It’s ludicrous, the only “crime” I committed was posessing less than one single gram, I am hassled and arrested by one cop next thing you know, 5 more cars and 10 more officers show up, this is where your tax money goes :)

    4. samson says:

      WoW!!! Did not realize how much money “mug” shots were draining out of the system……..just another hefty sum of the taxpayers money that WOULDN’T be wasted if Cannabis were legalized…………..

    5. R.O.E. says:

      How much gas is use for police cars to do a cannabis bust for ONE GRAM! just sayin…

    6. R.O.E. says:

      Exercising your free speech is how this beast will get tamed. I dont have alot of money, I’m no genius but , I can run my mouth . I’ve changed many minds by running my mouth. How many minds have those people changed? Hummm…

    7. Don says:

      They are obviously building a database complete with photo`s that they can refer back to at a later date when they need more revenue, Thus Creating More of a demand for the Private Prison Industry, There should Never be NO Privatization of ANY Correctional Facility,EVER! The Goal of A “Private Business” is to make “Money” PERIOD! Whatever way they can by Legal Means, Legalization would hurt that business drastically,There are way too many Laws in place today that are Victimless,”Moral Police”,Using a Herb in Private neither Injures another nor does it Violate any body else`s Rights. Any Politician that opposes Legalization needs to be confronted by not only what their Beliefs and Motives are but ,Where and WHO do their political Contributions come from?

    8. Grvtykllr says:

      “If you’re sitting around wondering when they are going to legalize pot, you’re part of the problem. YOU have to legalize pot. You and your like-minded pot smokers, cannabis consumers, medical marijuana patients, and lovers of liberty, peaceably assembled to exercise your free speech and to petition your government for a redress of grievances”

      I LOVE that statement!
      I can not tell you how many times people who think like I do on the subject ask me that, “Well yeah, but when will it be legal?” I am going to print this out on business cards and had it out to the bastards!
      If everyone, in every state who thought like us would stand up and demand to be heard, this bullshit lie and war would be over and done before the end of 2009, we could celebrate new years eve with a big fatty.
      So long as the few are fighting for the rights of the many, real change will always be out of our grasp.

    9. LLLou says:

      If you’re sitting around wondering when they are going to legalize pot, you’re part of the problem. YOU have to legalize pot. You and your like-minded pot smokers, cannabis consumers, medical marijuana patients, and lovers of liberty, peaceably assembled to exercise your free speech and to petition your government for a redress of grievances… there’s nothing more American than being NORML.

      EXACTLY, RIGHT ON. It must be obvious to all who read these stories regarding Cannabis reform that the gov. will have to be led forward ,kicking and screaming, by WE THE PEOPLE. Speak truth to power whenever, wherever you can , spit in the eye of the prohibitionists , email your representatives, be polite but firm, let them know that you will support them IF they support you, if they are anti-Cannabis then do whatever you can to throw their ass out of office. BUT FOR GOD SAKE DON’T SIT ON YOUR BUTT WAITING FOR IT TO HAPPEN.

    10. im with jessse…
      “jah made the herb for man”
      CAN YOU FEEL IT

      Thanks Philly Norml.

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