Philadelphia City Council Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

If signed into law, the bill would allow Philadelphia police to issue $25 tickets for possession of up to an ounce of weed.

shutterstock_marijuana-940x540

[UPDATE: 4:40 p.m.] According to Councilman Jim Kenney’s director of legislation, Jim Engler, as per the Philadelphia Charter, Mayor Nutter does not have to take action on the just-passed marijuana decriminalization bill until Council is back in session in September. (The mayor has the option to sign or veto the bill, or do nothing which would also result in the bill becoming law without his official endorsement.)

“We’re writing a letter to the mayor asking him, since the voice of council has been heard and the bill has been approved by more than 12 members, that he begin implementing the bill and policy change as soon as possible,” says Engler.


The bill includes a three-month time period before it becomes law, which Engler says is something that is normally done with bills that require implementation. "Instead of waiting and twiddling our thumbs all summer long, we're asking that if he's going to make a decision one way or another, he should let us know now."

[Original: 2:36 p.m.] You can breathe a little easier today, stoners, and not just because you probably are into vaping now. Philadelphia City Council voted today to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of weed. Even the heaviest stoners rarely buy more than an ounce at a time, so this bill is good news for Philadelphia potheads from the casual smoker to the wake-and-bake stoner.

The bill was first introduced by Councilman Jim Kenney in May. Under Kenney's bill, Philadelphians caught with up to an ounce (30 grams) of marijuana would not be arrested. After they paid a $25 fine, they'd have the charge expunged from their record. (Presumably, their weed would also be confiscated.) Since June 2010, Philadelphia has treated possession of up to an ounce of weed as a summary offense punishable with a $200 fine and a three-hour class on drug abuse.

"After discussions with Philadelphia’s criminal justice stakeholders, my requests to end mandatory custodial arrests — i.e. handcuffs and a night in jail — were deemed an 'administrative burden' on our courts and police,” Kenney told NBC10.com in May. “Public officials shouldn’t be worried about ‘administrative burdens’ when our inaction is senselessly burdening over 4,000 people with life-changing criminal records each year.”

Two Republican members of City Council, Dennis O’Brien and David Oh, spoke out against the bill. O'Brien suggested the law could eventually lead to “assaults on police officers.”

Philadelphia's decriminalization bill is similar to Washington D.C.'s, which passed last month. In testimony before City Council earlier this month, NORML's Chris Goldstein noted blacks were arrested at five times the rates of whites for marijuana possession in 2012. People aged 18 to 34 made up 75 percent of marijuana arrests that year.

In a 2011 Daily News story, DA Seth Williams said before 2010 the city was "spending thousands of dollars for when someone possessed $10 or $15 worth of weed." (In that article, ex-DA Lynne Abraham said potheads are committing "untold numbers of crimes" to support their habit and compared smoking weed to driving 100 miles per hour.)

The bill passed, 13-3. Mayor Nutter's office has said he opposes the bill. The bill passed with enough votes to override a potential mayoral veto.

[PW]

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  • Johnny Domino

    Use of “stoner” three times in the first paragraph?

    Dope fiend and hemp addict didn’t want any of that?

  • helvispresley

    last time i checked an ounce is 28.35 grams, but it is cool if your guy rounds up.

    • mello

      thank you! i read that and was checking sources of the article thinking it was fake

    • SSINTENSE

      Some do and have for me :)

  • Philacook

    David Oh and Dennis O’Brien – Making stuff up.
    Assertions that have no basis in fact.

    • Medieval Knieval

      Agreed, but there’s nothing more pliable than a quote taken out of context.

      • missruiner

        what is the context that would make the statement ‘decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana could lead to increased assaults on police officers’ a legitimate one?

  • SSINTENSE

    Just decriminalize it already. Whenever I use it’s in the comfort of my own home after work or a workout. No one else is affected. It’s insane how this is criminalized when more dangerous substances are completely legal.

    • mike

      while Philadelphia is collecting a lot of tax money on it, Nj governor chris christie will be watching from far away still saying that he doesnt feel that legal marijuana is the type of life him nor all of NJ wants to live..He also said that he doesnt care how much money it brings. He doesnt want it…..This is why NJ is one of the only states that hasnt gotten better. Chris Christie got his stomach stapled for a reason. He wasnt able to lose weight the hard way. He would rather take the easy way out. Pathetic…..Thats the type of life he wants to live. Im not fat and obese, i dont know why he is pushing his own beliefs on me….

      • Mr Mojo Risin

        Need to vote that goofball out. He sees the world through a keyhole.

      • Johnny Domino

        Not sure I see any tax money in this particular bill, just some administrative savings and less strain on the courts and jails.

        Not insignificant, but no bonanza either.

    • EyemNotFree

      Shhh! You are embarrassing Jeb bush in the National Constitution center.

    • Johnny Domino

      Booze and smokes have a better lobby.

  • downthelaw

    I’m happy that decriminalization is sweeping the country, but it has to go further then that. This wasteful, costly, life ruining, FAILED prohibition most stop. To see it legal is one thing. But to see the end of a prohibition that empowers street gangs and cartels, waste tax dollars, throws good people in jail for NOTHING and takes them out of the workforce and they stop paying tax. To see that end is what this country needs. Use this amazing plant to create jobs and make tax revenue and stop using those taxes against us. between the tax we stop wasting and the taxes that will be made is reason enough. Prohibition on weed must stop bottom-line.

    • EyemNotFree

      Erase criminal histories and restore education. Bring back my 2 dead brothers.

      • TheEndGameIsNear

        Free the Unfree, brothas and sistahs..

        • EyemNotFree

          They need to legalize and stop capitalist syndicates from preventing people from earning a living.
          Restore Freetrade

          • TheEndGameIsNear

            So true.

            Believe me I just came out to PA from Cali.

            Southern California’s dispensaries are all advertised by a magazine corporation – OC Weekly and LA Weekly

            And every one of ‘em gets snitched to the Feds within three months.

            They have a monopoly on weed and they don’t even smoke OR pay their employees the minimum wage.

            I would rather see outright legalization or full medical usage with ZERO restrictions. But how would they advertise because those magazines have their tentacles in all the medical states and they’re in bed with the Fed and have lots of corporations that are non compliant. So I hope PA legalizes like CO.

            All the problems prop 215 patients like myself in CA are related to those magazine a$$holes who want everyone broke. Too broke to buy until the Feds do a sweep and that isn’t right if you ask me….

  • *puma9lg*

    Listen I’m all for lessening the punishment for possession of an ounce of weed. HOWEVER, my parking ticket in Center City should not be more than the fine people get for possession ($36 compared to $25). That fine is BS.

    • EyemNotFree

      Put a couple of extra quarters in next time. That should save on the gas money to court.

    • Fairuse

      We’ve all seen “Parking Wars”. I’m 6000 miles from Philly and even I know that your Parking Enforcement is one of the strictest in the nation. “Oh, but I just ran into Wawa for some Tasty Cakes! I didn’t know the Red Zone was for busses only!”

      • Rory Lord

        if only congress was as efficient as the philadelphia parking authority.

        seriously though, welcome to center city philadelphia! home of at least 10,000 unionized employees with the sole purpose of cleaning up garbage off the streets, but only in center city.

        go three miles north to temple, and you’ll see streets and streets of nothing but garbage bags being ransacked by the less fortunate. no parking authority to be scene.

    • freethinker

      when you park illegally you’re blocking others from parking. when you consume cannabis you prevent other people from……. ugh…..what?

    • Dizcuzted

      Just be glad your parking ticket is still cheaper than some lots in Center City. If you’re going to park illegally, suck it up and pay the fine.

  • Clyderightside

    From the American Lung Association:

    Tobacco vs. Marijuana

    Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals. There are 33 cancer-causing chemicals contained in marijuana. Marijuana smoke also deposits tar into the lungs. In fact, when equal amounts of marijuana and tobacco are smoked, marijuana deposits four times as much tar into the lungs. This is because marijuana joints are un-filtered and often more deeply inhaled than cigarettes.

    Marijuana smoke is also an irritant to the lungs, and frequent marijuana smokers can have many of the same respiratory problems experienced by people who smoke tobacco. These include coughing and phlegm production on most days, wheezing, bronchitis, and greater risk of lung infection.

    • EyemNotFree

      Capitalist pigism is a progressive and deadly disease.

    • Mk

      Eat it instead. Problem solved.

      • TheEndGameIsNear

        Right and I want to be able to bake my own pot brownie, grow my own, walk in to a shop and buy some pot, go smoke at a hash bar, and light a spliff if I want. Without losing my job, kids, or having a stigma from the professional ‘judge critics’ out there writing up their own rule book now that we are winning the end of prohibition.

        I do not care whether all those sobriety nazis do not want me to smoke, drink, or eat meat. You will never be happy with me anyhow so I might as well be free of your RULES…

        • David Blue

          Yes Alcohol Demons and Right Wing Extremist Group what is next A National Socialist Group

    • Tree

      Congratulations Clyderightside! You can spew all of the BS you want to about how MJ is as bad or worse than cigarettes. YOU are as foolish as the rest of the ignorant idiots out there who can’t see the forest for the trees! Research this… Show us one (1) report of an individual “dying” from smoking MJ!!! Show me just one. Cigarettes cause death everyday. MJ… Not a single death from smoking MJ ever reported or documented on this planet since the beginning of time.
      Lay off the bs towards MJ, if YOU are not for the legalization of Marijuana, then YOU do not have to partake of it.
      Have a nice day.

      • TheEndGameIsNear

        Who cares if people want to smoke and die doing it?

        Its their life and their body.
        Its not going to matter if you criminalize smoking it only costs more money to enforce our rules so lets leave the rules out of this, shall we?

    • Γ214

      >Available scientific data, that examines the carcinogenic properties of inhaling smoke and its biological consequences, suggests reasons why tobacco smoke, but not cannabis smoke, may result in lung cancer.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1277837/

      The end of the article:

      >In conclusion, while both tobacco and cannabis smoke have similar properties chemically, their pharmacological activities differ greatly. Components of cannabis smoke minimize some carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances some. Both types of smoke contain carcinogens and particulate matter that promotes inflammatory immune responses that may enhance the carcinogenic effects of the smoke. However, cannabis typically down-regulates immunologically-generated free radical production by promoting a Th2 immune cytokine profile. Furthermore, THC inhibits the enzyme necessary to activate some of the carcinogens found in smoke. In contrast, tobacco smoke increases the likelihood of carcinogenesis by overcoming normal cellular checkpoint protective mechanisms through the activity of respiratory epithelial cell nicotine receptors. Cannabinoids receptors have not been reported in respiratory epithelial cells (in skin they prevent cancer), and hence the DNA damage checkpoint mechanism should remain intact after prolonged cannabis exposure. Furthermore, nicotine promotes tumor angiogenesis whereas cannabis inhibits it. It is possible that as the cannabis-consuming population ages, the long-term consequences of smoking cannabis may become more similar to what is observed with tobacco. However, current knowledge does not suggest that cannabis smoke will have a carcinogenic potential comparable to that resulting from exposure to tobacco smoke.

      >It should be noted that with the development of vaporizers, that use the respiratory route for the delivery of carcinogen-free cannabis vapors, the carcinogenic potential of smoked cannabis has been largely eliminated [47,48].

      See? We can do this copy/paste bit all night long.

      • David Blue

        Whoa

    • Rory Lord

      Excellent point. It’s good that marijuana users can eat THC infused edibles or vape their marijuana. Smoking is not the only way to partake, and it’s great marijuana users can have alternate forms of medicating without having to smoke it.

      • TheEndGameIsNear

        But I still want the option to smoke it.

    • JeffWest

      Vaporizer.

    • David Blue

      Not True

    • dan

      One cigarette on average contains almost a gram of tobacco. Thus, smoking a pack a day would mean that you consume ~20 grams of tobacco every day, which is not an unreasonable estimate. That same amount of marijuana would certainly last you a hell of a lot longer than one day.

    • djulien

      You’re leaving out at least one important fact: Pot users smoke a lot less puffs per day than cig smokers. When you factor that in, smoking pot is much less a health risk as is tobacco. Put that in your pipe and smoke it…..

  • Miss Leading

    WARNING: The bill does not decriminalize small amount of marijuana possession. It is still a crime in Pennsylvania. The City of Philadelphia can establish a civil fine for possession but it cannot change the criminal code. That is what Council members Oh and O’Brien stated. Unless, the state legislature amends the state crimes code, it is still a crime in Philadelphia.

    • Duncan20903

      Are you just guessing or do you have a supporting citation for that claim?

    • Pueblo Potter

      It’s a crime that the LOCAL DA refuses to prosecute, so while it’s technically a “crime” it’s not a crime that is enforced inside the city. You can now smoke pot in Philly with no concern of arrest. Smoke up Broddah!

    • JeffWest

      So the Philly police can’t arrest you, but a PA state trooper in Philadelphia can?

    • teddyspaghetti

      Did you read the article? It states “After they paid a $25 fine, they’d have the charge expunged from their record. “

  • Clyderightside

    Northwestern Medical School Study: MARIJUANA CAUSES BRAIN DAMAGE
    April 14, 2014
    In a new study, published on Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, which was undertaken by psychiatrist and mathematician Hans Breiter from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, analyzed the correlation between casual marijuana use and structural changes in the brain. The conclusion: that even casual use among young adults was enough to cause significant brain abnormalities in two important brain structures.

    The amygdala and the nucleus accumbens were the parts of the brain where the abnormalities were most prevalent. These two regions of the brain are responsible for processing emotions, making decisions, and motivation. Damage to these parts of the brain often yield some types of mental illness such as anxiety disorders, paranoia, bi-polar and depression, and Breiter argues that this is the part of the brain that, “you do not want to mess with.”
    Read more at http://guardianlv.com/2014/04/marijuana-use-does-cause-brain-damage/#sULU0IB7D3ccee3o.99

    • Γ214

      Then I can safely assume you are all for the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco? Both are legal and both are far more destructive than cannabis is.

      There are significant problems with just copying and pasting this article. You missed the part that makes this NOT NEWS yet.

      >This is the first study to show casual use of marijuana is related to major brain changes…

      The first study to show something is insignificant until the experiment is repeated several times, giving enough data to be significant.

      The writers on the Northwestern University release regarding it makes an important, and non-alarmist (unlike your crap post) caveat:

      >The researchers do not mean the study to compare marijuana use to other harmful and life threatening substances that are legal, such as tobacco and alcohol; nor is it meant to take away from the beneficial uses of marijuana like treating pain in cancer patients, but certainly the hope is that the research will shed much-needed light on the subject of the drug and how, when used without caution, marijuana does in fact cause damage to the brain. It is important that the harms of marijuana use are not over-shadowed by the potential benefits of the drug, as the push to legalize it becomes more popular.

      • Clyderightside

        Don’t assume.

        • Γ214

          Well, then make yourself and your argument clear. You contributed nothing but a copy/paste of an article about a singular study with no other results corroborating the data yet.

        • Mr Mojo Risin

          You sound like someone who needs their fair share of alcohol. Get to it. Go damage your brain or don’t care that it’s damaging everyone else’s.

        • TheEndGameIsNear

          ^ On government payroll ^

    • a_researcher

      I know Hans Breiter. He’s not the brightest tack, and I would not take his simple studies as proof of anything.

    • Mr Mojo Risin

      The study showed a change in a part of the brain. It does not show damage unless the researcher simply interpreted his findings as damage without that positively being the case. The study and its interpretation were horribly done by all legitimate accounts. Try looking around the internet a bit more instead of believing everything you’re told by the establishment.

    • TheEndGameIsNear

      You have 0 likes. 0.

    • Letsclearthisup

      Did you read the executive summary for this study? Even the researchers, themselves don’t claim causation. There was no baseline to measure against to show changes from what the subject’s brains looked like before using marijuana. There was no effort to distinguish between marijuana and other variables that may be affecting the brain. The sample size was extremely small. There was no certainty that the “abnormalities” found were harmful as opposed to harmless or even beneficial. The study only determined the need for more study — that is all.

  • sky

    what about commuting the sentences of those serving jail time?

    • TheEndGameIsNear

      Free the Unfree.

    • ax

      good idea wat about that

  • teddyspaghetti

    I do wish these politicians would realize that they’re not going to hurt their support/constituents by endorsing MJ…however the pharmaceutical industry won’t be so happy, I’d wager. (But that mostly affects congressmen and how much money they’ll lose out when the lobbyists supply runs dry.)

    • TheEndGameIsNear

      Especially Gov’ner Corbett.

  • Mr Mojo Risin

    How in the world is this decriminalization going to lead to assaults on police officers? Lol
    Dennis O’Brien sounds dumb AF!

    • Erad

      I was dumbfounded when I read that. These pompous blowhards know nothing but insist on imposing their idiotic will on the masses. I have more respect for hookers; at least they perform a service.

  • Rory Lord

    people who claim marijuana smoking is dangerous to the lungs may be right, but that is why alternate forms of THC/CBD consumption are there for. Edibles, drinks, vaporizers are taking over and making it so you don’t have to smoke directly. More and more cannabis themed companies and suppliers are creating dozens of new ways to medicate.

    • TheEndGameIsNear

      It should still be legal to smoke it.

      The less restrictions the better. We don’t want to consume money by over regulating or dedicating lives and taxpayer dollars to running others lives now do we?

  • freethinker

    I liked the line where he talked about the crimes that users have to commit to support their habits. the ONLY reason that its expensive is because its illegal. if it were fully legal, and they could openly plow fields full of it, you could buy the stuff for $10 per garbage bag full.

  • Autonut

    I jsut got sentenced in Dauphin county PA for .25grams possession. I am on probation for 1 year, 1500.00 fine, 800.00 n fees, and 900.00 for an atty. 40 hrs comm service, and random drug testing in which I have to call a hotline DAILY to see if my number comes up for the entire duration of the probation. When all is said and done, I will have to hire an atty again to persue expungement of the Misdemeanor record.

    • Pueblo Potter

      Stay in Philly, don’t go into the sticks with your weed.

    • TheEndGameIsNear

      Free the Unfree..

  • Duncan20903

    According to The American Academy of Neurology more than 96.7% of
    cannabis studies are just plain garbage. But that’s what you get when you only pay
    out grants for the results which you demand.

    http://philadelphia.cbslocal.COM/2014/04/28/medical-marijuana-inconclusive-neurologists-meeting-in-philadelphia-is-told/

    Medical Marijuana Inconclusive, Neurologists’ Meeting in Philadelphia is Told
    April 28, 2014
    By Steve Tawa

    PHILADELPHIA
    (CBS) — The American Academy of Neurology, meeting in Philadelphia, has
    released a study on the use of medical marijuana in brain diseases.

    The world’s largest association for neurologists says the review highlights the need for more high-quality studies.

    Review author Dr. Gary Gronseth (seated on podium at right) says they
    looked at more than 1,000 studies but only 33 were “of reasonable
    quality,” in his view.
    /snip/

    • David Blue

      I am addicted to Coka Cola

  • Nonewhere Listens

    “Councilman O’Brien suggested the law could eventually lead to “assaults on police officers.”

    A comment from somebody who has obvious never toked. It will more likely lead to police officers being hugged and kissed.

    • Martha McNugget

      Or maybe taking his donut. And his partner’s donut.

  • SereneBowrageyel

    my buddy’s sister makes $87 every hour on the internet
    . She has been unemployed for 6 months but last month her payment was $19402
    just working on the internet for a few hours. go right here M­o­n­e­y­d­u­t­i­e­s­.­C­O­M­

  • TheEndGameIsNear

    Geez. Some movement forward. At this rate PA will be Colorado’s follower.

    Legalize PA!

    Corbett’s representatives comment as of last night about whether or not he will legalize medical marijuana or not:

    “We don’t know”

  • EyemNotFree

    Get Jeb Bush off the board of the National Constitution Center!

  • malcolmkyle

    * Here are the main paragraphs from the address of His Eminence, Cardinal Dougherty, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, to the Catholic societies of the Archdiocese on New Year’s Day 1931:

    “Having heard the report on behalf of the members of the Total Abstinence Society, it occurs to me to say that when the law prohibiting alcoholic drink was passed, many thought that there would be no further need for our temperance or total-abstinence societies. Hence the practice of giving a pledge against intoxicating liquors to boys and girls at Confirmation was discontinued. There seemed to be no need of it.”

    “But, unfortunately, Prohibition has not performed the miracles that were expected. According to experts, such as judges, public officials, social service workers, and others, there is as much, perhaps even more, drunkenness and intemperance today than before the passage of the Volstead Act.”

    “When in the past did we see young men and women of respectable families carrying a flask of liquor when going to social events? When did we see young girls, not yet of age, drinking in public, perhaps to excess, cocktails and the strongest kind of intoxicating liquors, and perhaps being overcome by them? That, today, is not an uncommon sight.”

  • Cleveland_Steamer_x3

    This is a good step in the right direction, but the east coast needs to do much more overall.

    End prohibition.

  • David Blue

    People would like police more if they didn’t get hassled all the time. Chris have a donut.

  • M

    I use it for medical purposes! I don’t think the government should have any say in how I use it for medical use! It helps keep me healthy, and helps me stay alive! If the government wants a fight they shall have one. Marijuana helps some many different conditions for so many people. Yes, I believe in the truth of its existence! Which they know about, but do not want it to happen.