Nutter: Pot Decriminalization Bill “Simplistic”

But doesn't say whether he'll sign or veto the bill.

Mayor Nutter sure doesn’t sound like a fan of City Council’s bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. The Inquirer reports this morning that he called the bill “simplistic.”

“I think we owe the citizens of Philadelphia a much more comprehensive and holistic approach,” Nutter told the paper.

Among his criticisms of the bill:

• It doesn’t provide an avenue to compel those cited for drug use to seek treatment.

• It gives officers too much discretion in deciding whether to confiscate or destroy drugs on the spot.

• And he really, really doesn’t like arguments that decriminalization should go forward because a disproportionate number of people arrested for marijuana are black men. (Eighty-three percent of drug arrests in Philadelphia last year were of black men, the Inquirer wrote Monday.)

“Suddenly, this is the great civil-rights issue of our day — that black guys should be allowed to smoke as much dope as they want,” Nutter told the Inquirer. “Eighty to 85 percent of the people being murdered in this city are black, 75 percent of them are young black men. I don’t see anyone writing about that. I find all of this sudden interest in the lives of black men by … some elected officials fascinating. They never talk about the real issues black men care about, like getting a job.”

The mayor maybe has a misunderstanding on the last part: The argument isn’t that “black guys should be allowed to smoke as much dope as they want.” It’s that “white men and black men smoke dope roughly at the same levels — but only black men get arrested for it.” That’s a very, very different argument.

And it’s easier to get a job if you don’t have a drug conviction on your record. The mayor — who has spent a lot of energy trying to get local employers to hire ex-cons — probably understands that as well as anybody.

Still, Nutter hasn’t outright said he’ll veto the bill. But it doesn’t sound good for decriminalization advocates. “We want to put forward a more comprehensive set of pragmatic responses,” Nutter told the Inky, “and not have mass confusion out on the street for the Philadelphia Police Department and the citizens of the city.”