FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 6/9/2014
City Council Law & Govt Committee approves downgrading marijuana penalty
Breaking: Today the Philadelphia City Council Law and Government Committee approved Councilman Kenney’s bill to reduce marijuana penalties.
The vote this afternoon was nearly unanimous: Council members Greenlee, Tasco, Goode Jr., Henon and Kenney voted yes and only Councilman O’Brien voted no.
Bill 140377 now moves to the full Council on June 19th.
The City Council Law Department reported that the bill follows Pennsylvania state law and could be implemented.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has stated to the press earlier this year that he thinks marijuana possession should be a summary offense, but then slightly backpedaled.
O’Brien, the only Republican on the committee, favored changing state law first; a reference to Senator Mike Stack ‘s legislation in Harrisburg.
Kenney’s bill would downgrade cannabis possession of 30 grams or less from a criminal to a civil offense, making the fine $25. This would eliminate the mandatory custodial arrest for the offense.
Philadelphia currently arrests more than 4,000 people each year for small amounts of marijuana. Current city policy requires every offender to be put into handcuffs and a holding cell; a practice that is not replicated anywhere else in the Commonwealth. If enacted the decrim policy could save the city more than $4 million dollars each year in the Public Safety Budget.
PhillyNORML Board member Chris Goldstein testified at the hearing, “Philadlephians should not be forced to remain locked up in the past while so much of the country has already moved into the future”
PhillyNORML’s analysis of city arrest data has shown a consistent and disturbing racial disparity in prohibition enforcement with black residents arrested five times more often than those who are white.
PhillyNORML will also be in Harrisburg in Tuesday June 10, 2014. Derek Rosenzweig will testify before the PA Senate Law and Justice Committee in favor of SB1182, a bill to bring medical marijuana to Pennsylvania.
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