Philadelphia: Mayor To Sign Marijuana Depenalization Measure

City mayor Michael Nutter announced today that he will sign municipal legislation into law decriminalizing marijuana possession penalties.

Under the measure, penalties pertaining to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis would be reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record.

Members of the City Council in June voted 13 to 3 to reduce municipal marijuana penalties. A slightly amended version of this proposal is anticipated to be before the mayor by the end of this month. The revised language is expected to take effect on October 20.

Anyone cited under the pending ordinance would be required to make an appearance before a Municipal Court judge, but would not face criminal charges or a criminal record. Those caught smoking marijuana in public would face a $100 fine, which could be waived if the defendant agreed to perform several hours of public service.

Philadelphia NORML had long lobbied in support of a change in the city’s criminal classification of marijuana possession offenses. A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by the organization reported that African Americans are arrested in Philadelphia for minor marijuana violations at five times the rate of whites despite both races consuming the substance at nearly equal rates.

“This will go a long way toward a much more saner and a much better policy for people in Philadelphia,” said Chris Goldstein, PhillyNORML co-chair. “This is something that should have happened earlier in the summer. It would have alleviated almost 1,000 people getting arrested.”

It remains to be seen to what extent local police will enforce the new ordinance, once enacted. In past statements, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey had publicly pledged to ignore the ordinance, stating, “State law trumps city ordinances.”

[UPDATE! It is now being reported that Chief Ramsey is on board with the amended ordinance.]

24 thoughts

  1. Finally! Anti marijuana laws that aren’t a slap in the face of every American.

    Its a beautiful thing.

    Then come along the fascists with this bullshit, “Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said his department would ignore it should it be signed into law.” What great assholes! Ignore reform only for continuing abuse. True intentions very much revealed by Charles H. Ramsey. The true intentions are “Fuck you and your rights! I don’t care what Americans say.”

    High and drunk on their authority.

  2. “It remains to be seen to what extent local police will enforce the new ordinance, once enacted. In past statements, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey had publicly pledged to ignore the ordinance, stating, “State law trumps city ordinances.””

    Typical prohibitionist excuse to keep doing what they know is wrong, because it’s personally profitable and affords them far more power than they deserve. First it was “yeah, hold onto that pipe dream, pothead, cuz the majority is on MY side, and the will of the people should prevail! DEMOCRACY!! Laws simply reflect the people’s will, and I’m here to defend the people’s will!”

    Then, once they lose that majority edge, the laws change, and they can see their unearned and undeserved money train really can go away, the will of the people and DEMOCRACY! and majority rules no longer matters. Now, somehow, the rule of law is separate from the will of the people, and should be upheld in the face of the majority rule, and screw DEMOCRACY! And then come the myriad of petty excuses for why they are not going to uphold the laws the people have put in place, and none of them are honest and simply admit “I don’t like the law the people put in place and I’m going to ignore the will of the majority because I have authority and power and i can do whatever I want, the Drug War sez so, and I will defend the Drug War to the death.” No, they have to bend and contort into pretzels to maintain the illusion (in their own minds) that they still have the moral high ground they actually lost decades ago.

    The current excuse is “well, the state/federal law is still on my side, so I’m going to continue to abuse my power and pit my will–and my badge and my gun–against the will of the people and I’m sure I can beat the populace back into submission so they get these high and mighty ideas of “legalization” out of their heads–or at least silence them and slow their progress long enough for the next baseless pro-Drug War lie to cause a panic and cement itself into the populations’ brains”.

    Because the prohibitionists are STILL chasing that rainbow and holding onto that dream that they can resurrect the highly lucrative drug panic of the eighties and nineties and save their profits. Sorry, guys, but people in the eighties and nineties–and even the seventies–were STUPID and IGNORANT, and on top of that, they didn’t have the miracle of the internet to bring them the facts and wise them up to your lies.

    Of course, that’s why the people in power would LOVE to eliminate free access to the internet. It’s hard to disseminate lies like this when the hoi polloi can speak freely, and anonymously so as to avoid persecution and other silencing attempts from employers and law enforcement.

  3. Why the $25 dollar fee? They obviously see this as non harmful to the public so why charge them with a fine? The system of single individuals out for petty laws is just that petty.. We need reform in the judicial system and more people are catching on.. We need to stop the revolving door theory and and stop putting minor offenders in jail to get taught how to do worse crimes while growing resentment.. Its 2014.. We can do better than this.. Stop the minor infraction PAYDAY incentive.

  4. The mayor needs to tell the police chief that if he doesn’t want to follow city law, he will find someone who will. It called law enforcement, not laws I don’t like I won’t enforce. The mayor should explain that it’s like with a child and a parent where one parent says it’s ok if you smoke but if the other parent catches you, I won’t help you. It’s the same thing here, if the city catches you it’s a fine, if state patrol does your out of luck. I live in Washington state where it’s fully legal and can buy at a recreational store, but I still know how important it is for the entire country to get this to work.

  5. Decriminalization is a good step in the right direction, but still a far way off of the legalization that needs to occur.

    Congrats so far Norml, another pillar tumbles. Soon so shall the blasphemy of this prohibition.

  6. Does this include sale/purchase?

    [Paul Armentano responds: No, the depenalized offense is possession only.]

  7. It’s a good thing Dr. Andy Harris (R, Maryland) doesn’t get a say in this like he did with DC.

    Real Federalism in action.

  8. The world would be a better place if Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey did not exist! He is a complete and utter mindless fool and is an embarrassment to law enforcement that actually believes in the Protect and Serve motto.

    Can someone please fire that idiot/jerk?

  9. The Pennsylvania state Senate is supposed to vote on medical marijuana the week of September 15, as mentioned in this Lancaster, Pennsylvania article. It would be great if the rumors that the vote is veto-proof, and then the state House votes on their version, adding Pennsylvania to the list of medical marijuana states.


    Lancaster City Council backs medical marijuana

    Leagalizing Marijuana
    Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press

    Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 10:05 pm | Updated: 10:41 pm, Tue Sep 9, 2014.

    By BERNARD HARRIS | Staff Writer

    Before a supportive audience Tuesday, Lancaster City Council members approved a resolution backing the medical use of marijuana.

    The non-binding resolution passed unanimously with five votes. Two council members were absent from the meeting in Southern Market Center.

    The resolution was in support of state Senate Bill 1182, which is slated for a vote next week.

    The resolution stopped short of also calling for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. That language had been included in an earlier draft.

    Several speakers called on council members to follow the lead of Philadelphia, whose council recently passed a decriminalization ordinance.

    A spokeman for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said Monday he would signed it into law. The ordinance reduces the penalty for possession of as much as one ounce of marijuana to a $25 fine.

    Lancaster City Council President John Graupera said Lancaster’s resolution was limited to the medical marijuana issue to target the upcoming Senate vote.

    Council member Pete Soto said the medical marijuana issue is personal for him. Both his parents died from cancer.

    “Whether they would have benefited from it if they had the opportunity, we’ll never know,” Soto said of marijuana.

    It is used legally in other states to relieve pain and reduce nausea as side effects of the chemotherapy used to treat cancer.

    Lancaster is the first municipality in the region to support medical marijuana use.

  10. @Young Smoker:

    Why the fee? Well, first of all, because it’s decriminalized and not legalized, so that suggests there has to be some kind of punishment involved, just not jail time and a record.

    But really? I think the main reason is to placate the dumbbell fence-sitters who are still “we-ehl, I guess MJ isn’t ALL that dangerous, maybe it causes more harm than good, but I don’t like the idea of these young potheads going about smoking pot with impunity because I still have some lingering prejudice in my brain that it’s still BAD and still somehow worse than alcohol or cigarettes, and it would be better to keep sending them to jail on a felony charge than to allow people to smoke pot without SOME sort of punishment attached to it!”

    I’m still loving how quick they’re decriminalizing though. Again, years ago, decrim was also on the list of “pipe dream, give it up potheads!” Now they can’t decriminalize fast enough, it seems. And so many seem to be pushing that very line–that decrim is so much better, and totally solves the Drug War problem, and if we decrim then the legalization issue will just go away, right? Right? PLEASE?!

    @Judy: Seconded! Maybe the people of Philedelphia can put some pressure on that issue, make it clear what happens to authority figures who abuse their power and ignore the will of the people (that is, what happens in the best-case scenario, if you know what I mean!)

  11. Just saw the update. That is good news, if true! How much of that is a genuine change of heart and how much is simple fear for his job? Either way, it’s good. And it’s nice to see a Drug Warrior cave in for fear of his job, when for so long MJ users and non-users who care about human rights and civil rights and just plain what’s right have been forced to cave to various invasive and fraudulent Drug War profiteering trends to keep their jobs (I’m looking at you, fraud drug testing industry and fraud rehab industry).

    It’s nice for once that supporting the failed Drug War is actually a detriment to someone’s employment health, as it should be.

  12. HaHa!!! It seems that Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has come to his senses 🙂 He now realizes just how stupid he appeared when he said he’d ignore the ordinance. I think he was privately scolded…

    Nevertheless, if it was up to me, I’d fire his dumb butt in a heartbeat! His change of heart, I’m quite sure, has everything to do with his job security and not any kind of real revelation about what is right and wrong.
    His kind disgust me in the worst kind of way.

  13. Nothing short of full legalization, regulation and taxation will do. There should be safe and accountable resources for adults to purchase quality pot at reasonable price. Nothing short of this will do.

  14. A step in the right direction.

    Unfortunately possession of cannabis “paraphernalia” such as a bong or pipe, even if you do not have cannabis, is still a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year incarceration and a $2,500 fine for a first offense.

  15. I have in 2013,OCT ,12 had Washington state sheriff officer come to my home in Washington State. Apon ariving for an unrelated call that was agnoliged as no true,refused to acnolige my Medical permit or try to verify.Instead refer to a location on property that had green house .Ask wwhat it was.I stated it was my medical merijana grow. I was instructed by sherriffs thay would have to call a FED.I stated isnt that convienient sence the FEDS dont follow State law.How can the State Officals alow under the law a licence to grow then call a FED to serch my house,I am still fighting this case on january 4th,2015.Had to fire Court appointed counsel.I need sume help.How dose me being rightfully granted a medical card alow or imply that my 4,5,6th.amds.CONST be forfit.please send any advice or help.sinserily rollie

  16. Coming from someone that recently got busted with cannabis in Florida, I can tell you that law enforcement are going WAY out their way to watch, build a case from nothing, and implement with deadly precision to destroy anyone with cannabis. I have been a off and on again smoker for 10 years, never been arrested, never gotten into trouble, never looked for trouble, own my own business at the age of 30, and take care of family and friends that deserve help and some that don’t deserve help as long as it will better themselves. They have harassed me with bogus traffic stops, trying to search me without probable cause (they will keep pushing and pushing the search over and over.)
    I can tell you now that in the end I have been violated, and they have overstepped their boundaries, disregarded their own laws, disregarded my rights, and wasted their time and our tax payer$ money along the way for almost NOTHING!!! They blow up the situation to make it look good on paper when add you into the legal system. They will not book you for 8 hours and make sure that you are the last person to be processed and have to wait all day to call family.
    Coming from someone that works 7 days a week just to pay the bills while I watch half of the people rob, cheat and kill each other, and the other half with more money then they know what to do with (usually these rich people are binge drinkers and cocaine addicts and give nothing back to the community, but not all of them) It is hard for me to see where “I” went wrong…
    Oppression, bigotry, small-mindedness, ignorance, and superiority are all “gate-way-drugs” when factored in on how people treat each other and how they view themselves and view others. Cannabis is NOT the “Devil’s plant”, nor the “gate-way-drug” period.

  17. Well stated Jeeves, and sadly a situation that is not at all isolated. Slowly the dominoes begin to fall.

  18. For all of you idiots complaining against the police chief chill the fuck out, first of all the state has more power than the city does. End of story it’s the same as a manger and an assistant manager. You listen to your manager. Secondly since I know your going to complain about my comment well, that’s not doing anything to help the issue if you want these laws to become state standards petition it campaign for it. Everyone of you who is bashing him probably doesn’t really even care your just following what everyone else is saying by taking the easy way and complaining. Get up and do something if you don’t like it.
    Also just because I know your not going to like my comment don’t bother. I don’t really care what you have to say to me, since your not going to take any real action anyways. Have a nice day

  19. Completely understand what your stance in this issue. Although I would disagree on some of the finer particulars, I believe you did an awesome work explaining it. Certain beats having to ingivtisateon it on my own. Thanks

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