Councilman Asks Mayor to Decriminalize Small Amounts of Marijuana

A Philadelphia councilman is calling on Mayor Michael Nutter to sign a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“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," said Councilman Jim Kenney.

Kenney sent a letter Tuesday to the Mayor asking him to sign and implement City Council Bill 140377.

The bill, which was passed by city council in June, creates a civil penalty for the possession of a small amount of marijuana, defined as 30 grams or less. Currently, anyone who is caught with one ounce of marijuana or more is arrested.

“Just this week, it was reported that another 264 citizens have been arrested since this Bill overwhelming passed City Council on June 19, 2014,” Kenney said. "If implemented by the Mayor, the procedures outlined in Bill 140377 will allow thousands of police hours to be better spent on preventing violent crime, and it will save thousands of people a year from interacting with the criminal justice system for non-violent incidents."

In the letter, Kenney stated that based on partial data, Philadelphia Police are on pace to arrest nearly 4,000 people for simple marijuana possession, with over 80% of those individuals being African American.

“The disparity present here is totally unconscionable,” Kenney said.

If the bill is signed, anyone caught with a small amount of marijuana would get a ticket for $25. The Nutter Administration has until the next council session, which is slated for September 11, to make a decision on the bill. The Mayor’s Office says Nutter is currently reviewing the bill’s potential impact

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