Philadelphia Will Be Largest American City to Decriminalize Weed
Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia plans to decriminalize marijuana in Philadelphia, making it the largest city on the East Coast (if not the entire country) to do so.
After the resounding success of legal marijuana efforts in Washington and Colorado, not to mention an almost decades-old medical marijuana industry, it seems that the debate around pot centers on whether it should be legal. Oregon will be the latest state to vote on legalizing recreational weed in this fall.
Thus, we sometimes forget that in order to stop locking people up and saddling them with criminal records for pot, there is another option. Decriminalizing marijuana is not the same thing as legalizing it or condoning its use, something Mayor Nutter stressed in his comments to KYW Newsradio. He plans to sign a bill that would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less so that offenders must only pay a $25 fine.
What’s most interesting about this law is the relatively small size of the fine involved. As Policy Mic points out, Chicago made it option for police to issue a $250 to $500 fine, but 93 percent of “misdemeanor pot possession charges in the city end up involving an arrest.” Even if the fine is issued, students and lower-income folks could still end up in prison if they are unable to pay the fine. Philadelphia has “take[en] arrests entirely out of the law enforcement equation regarding small amounts of marijuana.”
Still, Mayor Nutter insisted on a caveat to the bill given the low fine for possession. For someone caught smoking marijuana in a public place, he or she face an additional $100 fine that can be waived in favor of community service. Rather than a crime, this would be classified as “a non-summary civil offense.”
Councilman Jim Kenney, who authored the original bill, claims this measure will prevent more than 4000 arrests and the city will save around $4 million per year.
Photo by Alaska Carter
This post was updated, originally Oregon was identified as a state with legalized marijuana. We regret the error.