PHILADELPHIA, June 19 (UPI) -- Philadelphia has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, allowing individuals caught with the drug to face no more than a $25 fine and no criminal record.
The new law, passed today by Philadelphia's City Council in a 13-3 vote, would end mandatory arrests for marijuana possession of 30 grams or less. Although Mayor Michael Nutter publicly opposes the legislation, it passed by a veto-proof margin.
Because the bill is veto-proof and cannot be prevented from taking effect, sponsor Jim Kenney is urging Nutter to issue an executive order forcing police to immediately adhere to the new legislation.
"Public officials shouldn't be worried about 'administrative burdens' when our inaction is senselessly burdening over 4,000 people with life-changing criminal records each year," Kenney said in May.
Police officers in Philadelphia may still arrest marijuana possessors if personal discretion is deemed necessary. Under current law, PPD is required to arrest and imprison Philadelphians caught with marijuana.
"Councilman Kenney's proposal is not a solution to larger issues, such as the criminal justice system that negatively affects minority communities, but it is one step in the right direction - a step that would be unnecessary if officials in Harrisburg were more proactive and progressive," wrote former Philadelphia Mayors Wilson Goode and John Street in an op-ed advocating for the new bill.
Philadelphia must take this opportunity to do more. The policy of mandatory arrests and possible criminal records for thousands of young people needs to end. We believe this bill points Philadelphia in the right direction. We are pleased to support it and urge all Philadelphians to do likewise.