Philadelphia City Council approves downgrading marijuana penalty with veto-proof majority
Breaking 6/19/2014: Today the full Philadelphia City Council approved a bill to reduce marijuana penalties and stop custodial arrests.
“This is nothing short of a historic day for civil rights in Philadelphia,” said PhillyNORML Co-Chair Chris Goldstein, “We can now stop the practice of having the harshest penalties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for having a small amount of marijuana.”
Sponsored by Councilman James Kenney the measure downgrades cannabis possession of 30 grams or less to a civil offense, making the fine $25. Read the bill
Philadelphia currently arrests more than 4,000 people each year for small amounts of marijuana. City policy required every offender to be put into handcuffs and a holding cell; a practice that is not replicated anywhere else in Pennsylvania. The new policy should save the city more than $4 million dollars each year in the Public Safety Budget.
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.
Testifying in favor of the bill anti-violence advocate Bilal Qayyum said, “I’m sure a lot of you here in the room and those on Council smoked some weed; but you were not stopped.”
Tamira Moss, an African-American woman in her 20’s, told the story of spending a night in jail and then losing her job after a marijuana arrest.
Pastor Darrell Robinson spoke of his experience of trying to get jobs for youth is often thwarted because of marijuana arrest records
The 13-3 vote represents a veto-proof majority. Mayor Michael Nutter has until September to take action on the measure. If the Mayor waits that long more than 1,000 residents will suffer through a needless and expensive process.
Video of 3/22/2014 City Council committee hearing with testimony from National NORML, PhillyNORML, Temple SSDP, Law Enfocement Against Prohibition and more http://www.phillynorml.org/2014/03/22/video-testimony-3-10-hearing-end-custodial-marijuana-arrests/
Read Chris Goldstein’s testimony to City Council Law&Government Committee here http://www.phillynorml.org/2014/06/12/phillynorml-testimony-city-council-marijuana-decrim/
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