Philadelphia, PA: Members of the Philadelphia City Council voted 13 to 3 last week in favor of municipal legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession penalties.
Under the proposed measure, which passed with a veto-proof super-majority, penalties pertaining to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis would be reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has until September to act on the measure, which, once implemented, is estimated to save up to $4 million in annual police and prosecutorial costs.
Yet despite last week’s supermajority vote in favor of reclassifying cannabis, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has publicly vowed to ignore the ordinance, stating, "State law trumps city ordinances."
Under Pennsylvania law, the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in hail and a $500 fine.
Since 2010, some minor marijuana offenders have been eligible to receive a summons to participate in a diversion program in lieu of facing criminal charges.
A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by PhillyNORML 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.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at (202) 483-5500.