Philadelphia Depenalizes Marijuana Possession

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 3, 2014

    Philadelphia mayor signs depenalization legislation into lawAs 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.

    24 responses to “Philadelphia Depenalizes Marijuana Possession”

    1. Julian says:

      Congratulations Phili! Looks like Change really IS coming soon…

    2. BobKat says:

      Great news! Portland Maine did the same.

    3. vickia52 says:

      i guess i get a little steamed! ohio what the f–k! sure we’ve got decrim. big whoop! it still is harry. where to go? just too much. every where needs to be free. i’m 61 f educated, been doing it since i was in my late teens but quit 15 years ago because i moved. bummer! medically i could qualify but i would rather be done with all the hassels, and be the good citizen I always was, but was made to feel less because i feared getting caught. sad day for all of us in ohio! mmj bills just sitting collecting dust! or the issue as to soooo many signatures. let the citizens vote, let us decide!!!!! vape/vote

    4. Nelson Wiggins says:

      What about the rest of P.A- What’s so different about Philly the last time I checked Philly was still part of P.A right!

    5. Galileo Galilei says:

      Seems like prohibition should be aimed at tobacco, not marijuana.

      A physically addicting carcinogen! 400,000+ early American deaths a year!


      • Jill Elizabeth Sparks says:

        What about alcohol. Looks at the deaths and destruction it does on a daily basis as well. I bet people wud really open up to getting bills that are harmless passed if they cudnt get in their flasks around the entire us of a!!!

    6. RYan says:

      I just do not understand “its not bad but were gonna still punish you for it” The whole war on pot reminds me of the end of the Reconstruction era of US history when Black codes were inundated into the legal system. A slave was a “freedman” however if he left his owners plantation without a letter signed by the plantation owner as to where they would be going they were arrested and sentenced to hard labor on a plantation. (still a slave) so basically what they are saying is “Okay you can smoke your dangerous marijuana but…so help me god u get caught smoking it, were still gonna find a way to yell at you. Wake up people! The only way we should be satisfied is when we can smoke what we GREW from the GROUND.

    7. TheOracle says:

      Will Philly cops still haul people off from public demonstrations of civil disobedience for toking, only to give them a $100?

      I am hoping Corbett loses re-election, and Tom Wolf is the new governor so that a message to ease up on cannabis prohibition gets sent to all the prohibitionist legislators in Harrisburg, the state’s capital. The latest Senate medical marijuana legislation was pared down to basically tinctures of Charlotte’s Web for kids with seizures, no smoking, no vaping, and while if passed it’s better than nothing that’s all I can say about it. It would be a shitty first step, a first step nevertheless. Now it’s gone to the Pennsylvania House where, I’m hoping, they will put common sense back into the bill, even beyond what the original Senate bill called for. But, that’s bound to be just a pipe dream because the House is said to be even more prohibitionist than the Pennsylvania Senate.

      It boils down to such politicians being too damn lazy to read the scientific and medical evidence in favor of cannabis, AND being too damn lazy to give information to those of their constituents who are woefully uninformed on the scientific and medical benefits of cannabis. They are politicians and NOT statesman. Otherwise, they would be representing ALL of their constituents, even those of us who can benefit from cannabis. That said, they would be educating their constituents instead of taking the low road and pandering to cannabis ignoramuses in order to get re-elected.

      I think there is an egotistical aspect prohibitionists are feeding. For example, Tom Corbett, current governor of Pennsylvania, and Chris Christie, current governor of New Jersey, were both prosecutors, Corbett Pennsylvania Attorney General, and Christie a federal prosecutor. When you think of how many cannabis prosecutions they have under their belts personally and how many in the criminal justice system hierarchy from policies they set, it would be very difficult emotionally for them to have to come to terms with the notion that they, as overseers of justice, have used unjust laws prohibiting cannabis in ALL instances and thus are themselves responsible for injustices. If people with belief systems such as Corbett and Christie and politicians and high profile people who follow people like Christie and Corbett as role models EVER realize deep down inside cannabis is not the boogeyman they thought it was, they will likely just keep up the lies prohibitionists spout just so that they never have to deal with the fact that they were wrong. Some people just can’t be wrong, can’t admit it, even in the face of overwhelming evidence will not admit it. Case in point: Michele Leonhart couldn’t admit that cannabis was NOT as dangerous as heroin. In essence, prohibitionists are still espousing the notion that cannabis is a gateway drug, appropriately in Schedule I, less dangerous drugs such as cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamine.

      Do you honestly think that after cannabis is legalized first for medical use in Pennsylvania these prohibitionists will publicly change their minds? Do you honestly think that after cannabis is legalized, probably some years later, for adult recreational purposes in Pennsylvania and elsewhere that prohibitionists will admit they were wrong about cannabis? Prohibitionists in Colorado and Washington are just waiting for the legalization momentum to come to a screeching halt with the defeat of legalization measures up in this fall’s elections in Oregon and Alaska, for example. After legalization in Alaska and Oregon hopefully passes, prohibitionists will still be screaming bloody murder. They just can’t be wrong. They can’t have been wrong. They can’t admit that they spent their entire lives believing the cannabis lies, perpetuating the new Jim Crow injustices they were intended for.

    8. Voice of the Resistance says:

      This is still $25 dollars more then anyone should have to pay. I apologize for the negative attitude but I get frustrated without a toke, and a reason to laugh. I want to make Idaho a 420 state. We have quite enough potato’s here thank you. We have potato soup hot, and potato soup cold, washed down with plenty of rocky mountain deer pee I just want to puke.

      Over in Rear End city Monsanto’s slag mountain continues to grow, when they dump the slag at night it makes in the sky over the town a rosy red glow, a sure sign to true believers, and members of the LDS faith that they have come to the right place!

      And down on main street behind the Dead-Enders hotel,and restaurant, and the Stock-mans bar the toilet water fountain continues to flow.

      My voice is irreverently yours here, in godforsaken Idaho.

    9. Matt says:

      While a nice gesture, ultimately these local ordinance reforms are nothing but smoke and mirrors. Local PDs will ignore them and simply enforce state law. All lobbying efforts should be directed at the state level, both federal and local levels are currently a waste of resources.

    10. jane says:

      This city of Phil. had a high amount of pot arrest. The anti-drug law was a failure with 82% of arrests Blacks. Now marijuana is very much decriminalized. Next step is to see if some colleges in Philadelphia change their policy which currently is to kick students out of college enrollment because they are caught with pot.