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.
“Rep. Heck has been a relentless defender of Washington State’s new legal marijuana market and has committed himself to ensuring that the necessary reforms are pursued to make this program a resounding success,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Washington state residents would be well served by giving him another term in Congress to continue to push for the required changes to federal marijuana laws to allow legalization to flourish.”
“Washington state voters made the decision two years ago to regulate our state’s marijuana marketplace. As their elected U.S. Representative, part of my job is ensuring we implement this new law in a safe and fair manner,” Representative Heck stated, “One of the most important aspects of implementation from a public safety standpoint is making sure regulated marijuana businesses have consistent access to banking and financial services. Without this access, the regulated marijuana industry is forced to operate on a largely cash-only basis, increasing the chances of tax evasion, embezzlement, and even armed robbery.”
“As a member of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, I’ve pressed my colleagues, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Justice to make needed changes in how the federal government treats regulated marijuana businesses. Congressman Ed Perlmutter and I have introduced bipartisan legislation that would grant legitimate marijuana businesses access to banking services in states with legal marijuana markets,” Heck continued, “Earlier this spring, after prodding by myself, Rep. Perlmutter, and many in the regulated cannabis industry, the Obama Administration issued new guidance as to how federal regulators should treat banks and credit unions who have regulated marijuana businesses as clients. We’ve already started to seem some of the effects of this new guidance: multiple credit unions in Washington state have begun offering financial services to regulated marijuana businesses. I will continue working this issue in the months and years ahead, just as the voters of my district want.”
A genuinely early and respected voice against the war on some drugs passed away Friday, September 19 in California.
Joe McNamara was a former police chief in Kansas City and San Jose who, in the late 1980s, started to both write and lecture about the need for substantive changes in law enforcement practices (and that the law enforcement community and establishment inherently should SUPPORT drug law policy reform, not reflexively oppose it).
Joe is often credited with being the ‘father of community policing’.
When I first arrived at NORML in 1991, I devoured everything Joe wrote about the drug war. His efforts are clearly the sui generis of one of the most important drug policy reform organizations today—Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
His arguments were so persuasive and fact driven (he was as highly educated as he was a decorated police officer) that, in time, I came to see him as the proxy editorial voice for ‘legalization’ at a hugely important and politically influential newspaper—the Wall Street Journal. He spoke to the concerns the editorial board is unfortunately still to date too timid to publicly express under their own byline. His affiliation with the Hoover Institution at Stanford only enhanced his credibility in the eyes of WSJ editors.
Joe was able to breakthrough with ‘conservatives’ on the need to end cannabis prohibition like few others have (i.e., William F. Buckley).
It was in reading the WSJ last week that I learned of Joe’s passing…
Joe gave great, revealing, informed and prescient lectures at NORML, Drug Policy Foundation/Drug Policy Alliance, Cato Institute and other public policy conferences and seminars. I personally enjoyed conversing with him whenever, about whatever. He had much to share.
Passing at the age of 79, Joe lived what can readily be described as a full life, and that his intelligent and law enforcement reform advocacy, driven by decades of tough and challenging field police work, will live long after his days among us.
Joe McNamara RIP!
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.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the 25th annual Boston Freedom Rally, the two-day celebration of marijuana and protest against marijuana prohibition, held on the Boston Common each September sponsored by MassCann/NORML, the NORML state affiliate in Massachusetts.
I have been attending this event since the mid-1990s, and always look forward to spending time with tens of thousands of like-minded people on the historic Boston Common, enjoying the New England autumn.
The Boston Common is the oldest public park in America, consisting of 50 acres of land in the heart of the city, at the southern foot of Beacon Hill, the site of the Massachusetts Statehouse, and it enjoys a storied past.