420 Marijuana Arrests Since City Council Voted to Decriminalize

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Two weeks ago, we told you that there had been 264 people charged with marijuana possession in Philadelphia in the month following City Council’s June 19th vote to decriminalize the possession of small amounts.

And since that report, there have been 156 more arrests, according to court records, bringing the grand total to 420. (Yes, 420.) That’s 420 people who now have criminal records for possession, and the vast majority of them were not charged with any other crimes. Read more »

Jim Kenney Urges Mayor to Sign Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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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264 Charged With Marijuana Possession Since City Council Voted to Decriminalize

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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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Poll: 84 Percent of Pennsylvanians Approve of Medical Marijuana

Despite continued resistance from Gov. Tom Corbett on medical marijuana — he supports only a cannabidiol extract — Pennsylvanians clearly have no problem with medical marijuana. According to a recent Franklin & Marshall poll, 84 percent of the state’s residents back the use of marijuana for medical use.

Of that sample, 59 percent strongly favor the legalization of marijuana for medical use and 26 percent somewhat favor it. Only 12 percent are opposed in any way, with 4 percent undecided. Pennsylvania residents have actually supported medical marijuana for a while now: The same question, asked in May of 2006, found 76 percent of Pennsylvanians approved of medical pot.

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Ramsey’s Choice: Criminalizing African Americans

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Commissioner Charles Ramsey has made a decision: He will keep enforcing the state’s drug laws, keep arresting suspects for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana, and it doesn’t matter what Jim Kenney and a veto-proof majority of the Philadelphia City Council have to say about the matter.

“We still have to treat it as a misdemeanor until we are told otherwise by state law,” he told the Inquirer on Friday. “State law trumps city ordinances.”

That doesn’t sound entirely unreasonable, even if it does raise the question of who the hell pays Ramsey’s salary. But it does mean that Ramsey is making a choice, for which he — and Mayor Nutter, if he chooses to back Ramsey up — will bear substantial moral responsibility.

Ramsey is deciding that African Americans in Philadelphia will continue to be disproportionately treated as criminals.

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Philadelphia City Council Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

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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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Mayor Nutter Harshes Our Mellow

CBS Philly reports that Mayor Nutter stands in the way of a marijuana decriminalization bill being promoted by Councilman Jim Kenney. The bill would make possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana — about an ounce — a simple “code violation,” punishable only by a $25 fine.

Officers would still have the discretion to make an arrest, though, and that’s the basis of the Nutter Administration’s objection.

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