Today, the full Philadelphia City Council voted 13 to 3 in support of a measure that would lower the penalty for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil infraction, punishable by a $25 fine.
All 13 of the Democratic members of the City Council voted for it and all three Republicans voted against. The measure now goes to Philadelphia Mayor Nutter’s desk for signature. NORML’s local chapter, Philly NORML, has been working hard on advancing these reforms for many years and those efforts seem to be finally paying off.
Councilman Bill Greenlee, who voted in support of decriminalization, stated, “It does not seem fair for what most people consider a minor incident to potentially risk people’s future.”
Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who also voted “Yes” on the bill, said, “To spend the time and the amount of money that is really required to prosecute someone with small amounts of marijuana, while we have so many other bigger issues in the city, does seem a little bit not where we need to be headed.”
Bill sponsor Councilman Jim Kenney estimates that the new pot policy could save the police department and the courts about $4 million a year.
NORML will keep you updated if and when the mayor signs this measure.
The poll, which questioned over 11,000 law enforcement officers regarding their opinions on drug policy, revealed that just over 64% believed our marijuana laws needed to be relaxed in some form. When asked “Do you believe possession of marijuana for personal use should…” and presented with several options, 35.68% of respondents stated that marijuana be legalized, regulated and taxed, 10.84% chose that it should be be legalized for medical reasons and with a doctor’s prescription only, 14.24% said it should continue to be illegal but only punished via fines (no incarceration), and 3.68% said marijuana should simply be decriminalized. Only 34.7% believed marijuana should continue to be illegal with the criminal penalties that are currently in place.
“This poll reveals that support for marijuana prohibition is eroding even amongst those who are serving on the front lines enforcing it,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “When a majority of the American people and most of those tasked with implementing a law disagree with it in principle, it is time to change that law.”
You can view the full results of this survey here.
“Prohibition cannot be enforced for the simple reason that the majority of the American people do not want it enforced and are resisting its enforcement. That being so, the orderly thing to do under our form of government is to abolish a law that cannot be enforced, a law which the people of the country do not want enforced.” – New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia on alcohol prohibition.
During his second inaugural address, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had some harsh words for our War on Drugs:
“We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse,” Governor Christie stated, “We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable.”
While critiques of the War on Drugs are always welcomed (Governor Christie had previously made similar statements), it is hard to take his comments seriously when you consider his record regarding sensible reforms to New Jersey’s marijuana laws.
The same day he was calling for an end to this failed policy, two pieces of legislation that would have made pragmatic changes to New Jersey’s marijuana laws were sitting on his desk awaiting signature. The first would have allowed state farmers to receive licenses for industrial hemp cultivation as soon as the federal government changed the national policy on the issue. The other, Senate Bill 1220, would have ensured patients enrolled in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program would be able to receive organ transplants and not be disqualified because of their medicinal use of cannabis. You would think that a governor who just stood at a podium and lambasted our prohibition as a failed policy, would immediately leave the stage and eagerly sign these pieces of legislation.
He didn’t. These two important measures sat on his desk, unsigned and were ultimately doomed to failure by Governor Christie’s pocket veto.
In the previous few years, Governor Christie declared that he would veto any legislation decriminalizing marijuana that came to his desk and also fought against rational reforms to the state’s medical marijuana program tooth and nail. He eventually capitulated slightly on the latter, but not before watering down many proposed amendments to the state’s program.
We appreciate the Governor’s sentiment and welcome him in joining the overwhelming majority of Americans who think the War on Drugs has failed, but his statements are merely political bluster until his rhetoric is matched by his actions. While the ensuing years (and continual rise in public support) will only lead to more politicians, both aspiring and those currently in power, joining us in our call for a new approach to marijuana, we must be vigilante. Actions speak louder than words. If Governor Christie (and President Obama for that matter) want the rubber to meet the road between their statements and actual public policy, they will need to follow these flowery words with legitimate action.
Earlier this year, we came within just 4 votes on the floor of the Maine House of Representatives on legislation that would have put marijuana legalization before state voters this fall. While that effort fell short, voters in the city of Portland will still have the chance to vote on marijuana legalization this November. Question 1 will be on the Portland ballot and would legalize the adult possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. With just two weeks left, we can use all the help we can get to pass this initiative. If you live in Portland and want to find out how you can assist, please contact David Boyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WGME CBS 13 will air a special internet broadcast of a Town Hall Forum on Thursday, October 24, from 7:30-8:30pm, concerning the issue of legalizing small amounts of marijuana in Portland. If you wish to attend in person, apply in advance to be in the audience at wgme.com. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions in person and online via social media, using www.facebook.com/wgme13 and on Twitter using #YourVoiceYourFuture. The forum will air live on wgme.com and be broadcast on WGME CBS 13 on Sunday, October 27th at 11:35 PM.
In further news, it is our distinct pleasure to announce we will once again be pursuing statewide legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana in Maine. NORML and Representative Diane Russell have drafted and prepared legislation for introduction that would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and the personal cultivation of up to 6 plants. Retail outlets would be licensed by the Alcoholic Beverages, Cannabis and Lottery Operation within the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. We will be releasing final bill language as we get closer to its introduction, but we want to make sure this effort is on your radar, as it was the outpouring of grassroots support that helped us get so close to victory this year. If you would be interested in helping with this future statewide effort in Maine, please contact NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri at email@example.com. You can also click here to sign on to pledge your support for the legislation here.
Together, we WILL legalize marijuana in Portland this year and across Maine in 2014.
Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California, will chair a blue ribbon committee tasked with studying marijuana legalization in the state. This was announced at a joint press conference held this morning with the ACLU of California.
The panel will “engage in a multi-year research effort to help voters and policy makers as they consider proposals to enact a strict tax and regulation scheme that will enable California to benefit from billions of dollars of potential revenue annually while protecting the health and safety of our children and communities.”
Joining Newsom on the panel will be “leading legal, academic and policy experts from across the state and nation.”
The ACLU also released new polling data which revealed that 65% of Californians support legalizing and regulating marijuana, while only 32% were opposed and 3% undecided. You can view the full poll results here.
“This development is just a further illustration of how the debate over marijuana legalization has moved from the fringe into the mainstream,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “An overwhelming majority of Californians are ready to legalize and regulate marijuana and it is encouraging to see key figures within the state move to address the issue in a forward thinking and serious manner. With a voter initiative likely in 2016, this new survey data also confirms that the people of California are ready to move forward to end their state’s marijuana prohibition, with or without state legislators.”
NORML will keep you updated as this effort moves forward.