Philadelphia: Mayor To Sign Marijuana Depenalization Measure

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 8, 2014

    City mayor Michael Nutter announced today that he will sign municipal legislation into law decriminalizing marijuana possession penalties.

    Under the measure, penalties pertaining to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis would be reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record.

    Members of the City Council in June voted 13 to 3 to reduce municipal marijuana penalties. A slightly amended version of this proposal is anticipated to be before the mayor by the end of this month. The revised language is expected to take effect on October 20.

    Anyone cited under the pending ordinance would be required to make an appearance before a Municipal Court judge, but would not face criminal charges or a criminal record. Those caught smoking marijuana in public would face a $100 fine, which could be waived if the defendant agreed to perform several hours of public 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.

    “This will go a long way toward a much more saner and a much better policy for people in Philadelphia,” said Chris Goldstein, PhillyNORML co-chair. “This is something that should have happened earlier in the summer. It would have alleviated almost 1,000 people getting arrested.”

    It remains to be seen to what extent local police will enforce the new ordinance, once enacted. In past statements, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey had publicly pledged to ignore the ordinance, stating, “State law trumps city ordinances.”

    [UPDATE! It is now being reported that Chief Ramsey is on board with the amended ordinance.]

    24 responses to “Philadelphia: Mayor To Sign Marijuana Depenalization Measure”

    1. Dave Evans says:

      Finally! Anti marijuana laws that aren’t a slap in the face of every American.

      Its a beautiful thing.

      Then come along the fascists with this bullshit, “Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said his department would ignore it should it be signed into law.” What great assholes! Ignore reform only for continuing abuse. True intentions very much revealed by Charles H. Ramsey. The true intentions are “Fuck you and your rights! I don’t care what Americans say.”

      High and drunk on their authority.

    2. Demonhype says:

      “It remains to be seen to what extent local police will enforce the new ordinance, once enacted. In past statements, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey had publicly pledged to ignore the ordinance, stating, “State law trumps city ordinances.””

      Typical prohibitionist excuse to keep doing what they know is wrong, because it’s personally profitable and affords them far more power than they deserve. First it was “yeah, hold onto that pipe dream, pothead, cuz the majority is on MY side, and the will of the people should prevail! DEMOCRACY!! Laws simply reflect the people’s will, and I’m here to defend the people’s will!”

      Then, once they lose that majority edge, the laws change, and they can see their unearned and undeserved money train really can go away, the will of the people and DEMOCRACY! and majority rules no longer matters. Now, somehow, the rule of law is separate from the will of the people, and should be upheld in the face of the majority rule, and screw DEMOCRACY! And then come the myriad of petty excuses for why they are not going to uphold the laws the people have put in place, and none of them are honest and simply admit “I don’t like the law the people put in place and I’m going to ignore the will of the majority because I have authority and power and i can do whatever I want, the Drug War sez so, and I will defend the Drug War to the death.” No, they have to bend and contort into pretzels to maintain the illusion (in their own minds) that they still have the moral high ground they actually lost decades ago.

      The current excuse is “well, the state/federal law is still on my side, so I’m going to continue to abuse my power and pit my will–and my badge and my gun–against the will of the people and I’m sure I can beat the populace back into submission so they get these high and mighty ideas of “legalization” out of their heads–or at least silence them and slow their progress long enough for the next baseless pro-Drug War lie to cause a panic and cement itself into the populations’ brains”.

      Because the prohibitionists are STILL chasing that rainbow and holding onto that dream that they can resurrect the highly lucrative drug panic of the eighties and nineties and save their profits. Sorry, guys, but people in the eighties and nineties–and even the seventies–were STUPID and IGNORANT, and on top of that, they didn’t have the miracle of the internet to bring them the facts and wise them up to your lies.

      Of course, that’s why the people in power would LOVE to eliminate free access to the internet. It’s hard to disseminate lies like this when the hoi polloi can speak freely, and anonymously so as to avoid persecution and other silencing attempts from employers and law enforcement.

    3. Young Smoker says:

      Why the $25 dollar fee? They obviously see this as non harmful to the public so why charge them with a fine? The system of single individuals out for petty laws is just that petty.. We need reform in the judicial system and more people are catching on.. We need to stop the revolving door theory and and stop putting minor offenders in jail to get taught how to do worse crimes while growing resentment.. Its 2014.. We can do better than this.. Stop the minor infraction PAYDAY incentive.

    4. Chris says:

      The mayor needs to tell the police chief that if he doesn’t want to follow city law, he will find someone who will. It called law enforcement, not laws I don’t like I won’t enforce. The mayor should explain that it’s like with a child and a parent where one parent says it’s ok if you smoke but if the other parent catches you, I won’t help you. It’s the same thing here, if the city catches you it’s a fine, if state patrol does your out of luck. I live in Washington state where it’s fully legal and can buy at a recreational store, but I still know how important it is for the entire country to get this to work.

    5. Anonymous1 says:

      Decriminalization is a good step in the right direction, but still a far way off of the legalization that needs to occur.

      Congrats so far Norml, another pillar tumbles. Soon so shall the blasphemy of this prohibition.

    6. Anonymous says:

      Does this include sale/purchase?

      [Paul Armentano responds: No, the depenalized offense is possession only.]

    7. Galileo Galilei says:

      It’s a good thing Dr. Andy Harris (R, Maryland) doesn’t get a say in this like he did with DC.

      Real Federalism in action.

    8. Shon says:

      The founding fathers never intended for people to lose freedom and to be arrested for drugs.

    9. Judy says:

      The world would be a better place if Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey did not exist! He is a complete and utter mindless fool and is an embarrassment to law enforcement that actually believes in the Protect and Serve motto.

      Can someone please fire that idiot/jerk?

    10. ddcash says:

      Constitutionality is slipping. Let’s get Initiative 71 passed. goo.gl/0C1EBg