As anticipated, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed municipal legislation this week removing criminal penalties for the possession of minor quantities of cannabis by adults. (Watch a video of the Mayor’s ordinance signing and accompanying press conference here.)
The new measure amends citywide penalties pertaining to the possession of up to approximately one ounce of cannabis (30 grams) from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record. Public use of cannabis will be punishable by up to a $100 fine and/or the completion of community service.
Philadelphia NORML had long lobbied in support of a change in the city’s criminal classification of marijuana possession offenses. A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by the organization reported that African Americans are arrested in Philadelphia for minor marijuana violations at five times the rate of whites despite both races consuming the substance at nearly equal rates.
Council member James Kenney, who sponsored the decriminalization ordinance, acknowledged that it was Philadelphia NORML’s outreach on this issue that ultimately persuaded him to push for the change in law.
The reduced penalties go into effect on October 20, 2014.
A new Maryland law depenalizing marijuana possession offenses takes effect this Wednesday.
Senate Bill 364, signed into law this past April, amends statewide penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (presently punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal, fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders).
The new law does not reclassify penalties involving the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, which remains a criminal offense.
A 2013 ACLU analysis of state-by-state marijuana arrests data reported that Maryland has the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in the nation.
Among those voters age 18 to 40, 47 percent ranked alcohol as the most harmful substance to society, well ahead of both tobacco (27 percent) and cannabis (13 percent). (Thirteen percent of respondents were undecided.) Respondents among all age and ethnic groups were consistent in ranking marijuana as the least harmful of the three substances, as were self-identified Democrats and Independents. (Republicans rated tobacco to be the most harmful of the three products.)
“[These] numbers suggest younger Americans are upending societal conventions, which have long seen alcohol as an acceptable drug while condemning marijuana,” stated Rare.us in an accompanying press release.
The results are somewhat similar to those of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in March which reported that most Americans believe tobacco to be most harmful to health (49 percent), followed by alcohol (24 percent), sugar (15 percent), and marijuana (8 percent).
Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a schedule I controlled substance, meaning that its alleged harms are equal to those of heroin. Both tobacco and alcohol are unscheduled under federal law.
According to a study published in 2004 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the leading causes of death in the United States ware tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1 percent of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (365,000 deaths; 15.2 percent), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5 percent).
Nearly 60 percent of Americans support regulating cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, according to an analysis of over 450,000 online responses collected by the online polling data company CivicScience over a nearly two-year period.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that they would support “a law in [their] state that would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana like alcohol?” Thirty-five percent of respondents said that they would oppose such a change in law.
An analysis of responses provided within the past three months found even stronger support for legalization, with 61 percent of those polled endorsing marijuana law reform.
Democrats, men, and those respondents between the ages of 25 to 34 were most likely to support regulating cannabis.
Though the CivicScience survey is not a scientific poll, its findings are similar to those previously reported by Gallup in 2013. In that poll, 58 percent of respondents similarly backed legalizing marijuana. More recently, in April, national polling data published by the Pew Research Center reported that 54 percent of Americans support legalizing the plant.
Poll: Sixty-Four Percent Of Florida Voters Back Constitutional Amendment To Legalize Medical MarijuanaSeptember 2, 2014
More than 60 percent of Florida voters say that they support Amendment 2, a proposed constitutional amendment to permit cannabis therapy to qualified patients, according to a recently released Gravis Marketing poll.
Sixty-four percent of respondents said that they would vote in favor of the amendment, up from 50 percent in late June. Twenty-six percent of respondents said that they opposed the measure.
Because Amendment 2 seeks to amend the state constitution, 60 percent of voters must decide in favor of it before it can be enacted.
Although previous statewide polls have reported greater support among Floridians in regard to the concept of legalizing medical marijuana, the Gravis survey specifically polled voters on whether or not they endorse Amendment 2.
Among those polled, 90 percent said that they were either “very likely” or “likely” to vote in the 2014 general election.
The Gravis Marketing poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.