Yesterday, Victor Fiorillo reported that there had been 264 arrests for marijuana possession in the month following City Council’s vote to drop pot possession to a $25 fine.
With the bill — which passed 13-3 — likely to become law in September, it looks silly that there are still pot arrests in the interim. And the author of the marijuana decriminalization law, City Councilman Jim Kenney, is urging Mayor Michael Nutter to sign the law and at least start the debate over whether cops are going to follow it. (Citing state statutes, cops say they plan to ignore the new law and continue to arrest people for pot possession anyway.)
“Just this week, it was reported that another 264 citizens have been arrested since this Bill overwhelming passed City Council on June 19, 2014. Every day Mayor Nutter fails to act, more young people will be handcuffed and jailed for a minimal offense — something that doesn’t happen anywhere else in Pennsylvania”, Kenney said in a statement. Hey, that’s Philly mag’s reporting! If we were a tabloid newspaper, we’d be running an inset image of yesterday’s story alongside this update.
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On June 19th, Philadelphia City Council voted to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, passing a bill introduced by Councilman Jim Kenney. But Mayor Michael Nutter opposes the bill, and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has said that he will continue to make marijuana arrests, even if the bill is signed into law. In the month following the bill’s passing, 264 citizens were charged with the crime.
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[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.
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Councilman Jim Kenney
The 2015 Philadelphia mayor’s campaign has officially begun.
Henry Nicholas, president of the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees Local 1199, said Thursday his organization will back Councilman Jim Kenney for the city’s top office. Nicholas said Kenney started his career as a member of that union.
“It’s time he was promoted to the top of the class,” Nicholas told Philly Mag. “We’ve been a good citizen. It’s time for an 1199 member to be in charge of city government.”
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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.”
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CBS Philly reports that Mayor Nutter has put Philadelphia in the running for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. But that apparently happened only after prodding from both City Council and Congressman Bob Brady, the city’s Democratic boss:
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On Tuesday, Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney announced that he was introducing a bill to eliminate mandatory arrests for possessions of small amounts of marijuana. Why should we take two cops off the street for hours just because they find some dude with a joint? he reasons. Plus, there’s the issue of the “statistically implied discriminatory nature” of marijuana arrests.
And after we published that story, there came this “LEGALIZE NOW!” tweet from the official Twitter account of Councilman Kenney:
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The Inky reports on Councilman Jim Kenney’s proposal to decriminalize marijuana. “He said he was not advocating full legalization, but was taking his cue from District Attorney Seth Williams’ 2010 decision to handle possession cases involving amounts up to 30 grams – just over an ounce – as summary offenses. Rather, his bill would allow officers to issue a summons, similar to a traffic ticket, requiring people caught with a small amount of marijuana to appear in the special program.Kenney said the change would free up 17,000 police hours spent processing people arrested for pot possession.” Kenney, incidentally, might run for mayor in 2015.
A couple of days after President Obama told the New Yorker that he is basically OK with weed, Philadelphia Councilman Jim Kenney says that he is going to introduce legislation that will put an end to mandatory arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Read more »
Snorebett Corbett shocked our pants off today when he came out in support of H.B. 300, a long sought-after bill that will once and for all protect Pennsylvania LGBTers from things like getting fired or getting kicked out of a place of business just for being gay.
The Inquirer reports that he came to the decision after realizing that federal non-discrimination laws do not apply in Pennsylvania: “I’ve had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against. … The federal government has anti-discrimination laws. I believed they covered it.”
Read Brian Sims and Jim Kenney’s response after the jump »