Tags: Marijuana Legalization | marijuana | philadelphia | council | Nutter | decriminalization

Philadelphia Nears Deal to Ease Marijuana Penalties

Image: Philadelphia Nears Deal to Ease Marijuana Penalties
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (Ron Sachs/DPA/Landov)

By    |   Friday, 12 Sep 2014 12:08 PM

In a reversal, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter now supports legislation to reduce criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and public smoking, according to a legislative compromise reached between Nutter and City Councilman James Kenney.

Nutter and Kenney announced on Sept. 10 they had reached an agreement to amend a bill, originally introduced by the councilman, that would decriminalize possession and use of small amounts of marijuana in Philadelphia.

Under the compromise, individuals using marijuana in public would be charged with a noncriminal summary offense, which would carry either a $100 fine or up to nine hours of community service. Those found in possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana would get a "Notice of Violation" and a $25 fine, according to the mayor's office.

In addition, a separate criminal category for public use of the drug would be created.

The City Council approved the compromise on Thursday and, if signed by the mayor, it could become law on Oct. 20, reports NBC10.com.

Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted measures legalizing some form of marijuana use, according to Governing magazine.

In June, the Philadelphia City Council voted 13-3 to pass a law that would allow police to issue a $25 fine for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, a substantial reduction from the current law, which results in an arrest, a $200 penalty, and a drug treatment program, reports PhillyNow.

Kenney has consistently argued that marijuana arrests unfairly impact minorities, particularly African Americans, who accounted for 83 percent of the 4,336 marijuana possession arrests last year.

As recently as August, Nutter dismissed that argument, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"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. 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," he said.

However, he downplayed the rift with Kenney when speaking with reporters this week.
"I think Councilman Kenney's advocacy here has caused all of us to talk about this and focus on this particular issue in a very, very different way," said Nutter, according to The Inquirer.

Nutter added that he and Kenney "were never at odds about the goal, and we share the same goal: People should not necessarily get arrested, or be hassled, or end up with a life-changing criminal record."


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In a reversal, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter now supports legislation to reduce criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and public smoking, according to a legislative compromise reached between Nutter and City Councilman James Kenney.
marijuana, philadelphia, council, Nutter, decriminalization
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2014-08-12
Friday, 12 Sep 2014 12:08 PM
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