Mariijuana Will Be Legal in Philadelphia Soon. Why? Money. Lots and Lots of Money.

Colorado is rolling in green. How long before PA pols catch a whiff?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Philadelphia has always been backwards in legislating criminal justice. Stealing from the city’s fund with the morally corrupt DROP program is okay, but getting caught with pot on a street corner means a night in jail. That is the warped logic of our City Council that bows to the whims of corrupt city unions, but goes out of its way to screw just about everyone else.

Jim Kenney has been a glowing exception in attempting to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in a city where a pot bust is too often just an excuse to throw another teenager in jail for the night.


Councilman Kenney told the Daily News, “Philadelphia is in the dark ages when it comes to marijuana laws enforcement.”

I’m not certain about the dark ages, maybe more like the 1950’s — the Reefer Madness era. But Philadelphia is definitely not living in the present, where states and municipalities, one by one, are legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana at such a pace that it will soon be legal across the country. And that is the right thing to do, as all of the old arguments against pot use are being proved wrong.

Before I continue, I have no personal stake in this fight. I don’t smoke marijuana, nor do I want to. I tried it in college and it had the same effect on me that it had on Woody Allen, who describes, “curling up in the corner in a fetal position with a lobster bib to catch the drool.”

But when the laws are changing across the country, from Washington to Alabama, as quickly as the attitudes about pot use, not another young Philadelphian should be put in the back of a squad car because police found a dime bag during a stop-and-frisk.

It is the overriding reason that African-Americans are three and a half times more likely to get busted for pot than whites. Pot is too often used as an excuse to take someone off the street because police don’t like the looks of them. It is the dominating reason that few seem to object to the tactic — get the “bad guys” off the streets no matter what.

This is not a Philadelphia phenomenon. In New York City, court records show that marijuana possession is far and away the number one reason for court arraignments. The Brooklyn borough president has had enough. Eric Adams points out that his borough has one of the highest racial discrepancies of pot arrests in the country, “We only enforce it in certain parts of Brooklyn and that is unacceptable.”

It should be unacceptable in Philadelphia too.

Councilman Kenney would rather focus on the police time wasted in arresting and prosecuting for a pocket full of pot. Kenney told the Daily News, “With over 4,200 arrests in 2012, and an average of two to three hours per arrest, the measure will save an estimated 17,000 police hours on an annual basis.” The pot arrests also clog up the courts and end up costing millions, instead of making money with a $25 ticket for pot possession.

The only problem with the Kenney solution is that it gives police the discretion in either writing the ticket or taking the offender in, if they consider him or her to be a “bad actor.” The Brooklyn solution, written by District Attorney Ken Thompson, applies only to those with clean or minimal criminal records, a small, but important difference from Kenney’s plan.

Kenney tried to get council to vote on a decimalization plan once before, but they hemmed and hawed it to death. Now he is looking for Michael Nutter to pass it with an executive order. The mayor has nothing to lose, as before long, pot will be legal in Philadelphia and everywhere else.

There is little question that soon every state in the union will legalize marijuana. Why am I so sure? As always, the answer is money. The same thing happened with the lottery and casino gambling. Moral objectors were bought off with tax revenue.

The legal marijuana industry in Colorado is quickly becoming a billion-dollar business. It’s estimated the state will take in close to 200 million a year in taxes, or a billion over the next five years.

For a billion dollars in taxes, Governor Tom Corbett, Mayor Nutter, or any political executive in the country, would show up at your home and roll a joint for you.

Just think what Philadelphia City Council could do with the money.  Maybe replenish the city pension fund that it has allowed so many over the years to siphon?

Follow @LarryMendte on Twitter.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • AnyOldHead

    So glad to see you back, better than ever before, Larry!

  • Pot

    There’s no doubt, government should chill the F out on most if these laws .

  • Pat Rogers

    As long as cannabis sales and distribution are illegal the hundreds of millions of dollars a year that the retail marijuana market is worth in Pennsylvania will go, TAX-FREE, into the pockets of criminals and gangsters who have a vested economic interests in keeping wide open the gateway of access to drug sales to all children in the city. Based on Colorado’s first month of legal sales Pennsylvania has a potential annual legal retail pot market worth sum $ 424.9 million. A massive criminal subsidy program.

    Only legalization puts regulated, licensed and taxed responsible adult supervision in control of most all sales and distribution. Adult supervision slamming shut the gateway of access by kids to pot. For the first time in American history.

    • FGS

      The doublethink in your post confuses the hell out of me.
      You obviously are FOR the decriminalization of pot, yet you refer to those who currently sell it as a network of gangsters and criminals. They are currently treated as such because of the out-of-date, puritanical city laws concerning marijuana. If you think of these people as criminals for some other reason, you fall into the same trap of “taking bad guys off the streets” that Mendte touches on in the article.
      Second, you make the same, tired “think of the children” fallacy used for any cause deemed to be for the social good. Why would you choose to put another league of bureaucrats in charge of pot after FINALLY ridding it of a similar band of idiots that took this long, too long, to decriminalize it?

      • Pat Rogers

        FGS:

        Learn to read for comprehension. I do not support “decriminalization”. I support legalization. Decrim leaves in place the anarchistic crime and gangster supporting black market. this black market makes more drugs of all sorts more available to young under age people.

        You, in your personal myopia, see only the few friends you have who may sell. I see the broader sales and distribution that is dominated by gangsters and criminals.

        Finally, unlike you, I am not a libertarian anarchist who hates all government. And I appreciate that, in a democratic society, regulation, licensing and taxation are the democratic common ground between those citizens who fear legalization and those who support it.

    • TheEndGameIsNear

      I think

      the whole CBD only talk in PA is a close runner up to CO unexpectedly legalizing recreational weed.

      The only thing in the way here in PA is the governor, who doesn’t seem to understand that CBD is one of the few things people benefit from. Bipartisan support and pot friendly culture here is OVERWHELMING.
      You can’t make honey without having a few flowers and some bees, now can you?

      Despite it still being criminalized, the state reeks of money and green worse than Cali.

  • http://www.paulglover.org/ metroeco

    The Green Party candidate for PA governor is the only one intending to legalize marijuana AND free its nonviolent prisoners AND clear their records. http://www.glover4governor.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/glover4governor

    • Pat Rogers

      The Green Party should get the ACLU to sue the Obama administration to remove cannabis from Schedule-1 on behalf of impacted Americans. The Obama administration holds the broad medical marijuana patent received by the Bush administration and they absolutely know that marijuana has redeeming medical value.

  • Pat Rogers

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6630507.PN.&OS=PN/6630507&RS=PN/6630507

    Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants

    Americans impacted by the prohibition should sue the Obama administration to remove cannabis from Schedule-1. The federal government has held a broad patent for medical cannabis since 2003 so they absolutely know that it has redeeming medical value.

    United States Patent 6,630,507
    Hampson , et al. October 7, 2003

  • phillysportsfan

    the “reefer madness era” was the 30s-40s.

  • Juprock

    Mayor La Guardia of New York debunked the myths of pot in the 1940s, what we need is for old people who cling to the past to be thrown out of office. Our society needs to move on…

    • Rich-D

      It has nothing to do with age! The past you cite was full of pot smokers and free love. What it has to do with is the loss of revenue for defense lawyers and the fact that the vast majority of elected officials are lawyers!

  • virginia662

    my Aunty Sienna recently got a stunning red
    Nissan Maxima by working part time online… find out here now C­a­s­h­D­u­t­i­e­s­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Jeebus

    Last summer, I got a pot ticket in Philly, and the cop told me it wouldn’t stay on my record if I paid the fine, which I did. Soon, I have to sign something stating that I have no convictions of any municipal ordinance other than a traffic violation in order to get a job. Could that be considered perjury?

  • Marc Shakter

    If they made it legal in Philly for me to grow some plants for my own use without bothering anyone else I’d be soooo happy.

  • TheEndGameIsNear

    PA is dark, dark green..

    Dank, I think the state may just one-up CO and just have dispensaries all over the place.

    Then we won’t be growing just corn LOL. PA has more rainfall, on average than CO and better soil to boot. If CO is raking in the hundred dollar bills this state will be swimming in them.