Philly: Largest City to Decriminalize Weed

After a long summer of indecision surrounding whether Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter would choose to veto or sign an ordinance into law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, it appears the city finally has its answer.

Earlier this week, Mayor Nutter announced his full intention to sign a measure aimed at stripping away the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession. This celebrated move will make the city of brotherly love the largest metropolitan area in the United States to soften the penalties for marijuana possession by charging offenders a fine of $25 instead of prosecuting them in the criminal justice system.

In a recent interview with CBS News, Nutter said that while he was against the measure initially, he now realizes that it is in the best interest of the community. However, some revisions are in the process of being made before the mayor actually makes the law official with his signature at the end of the month. “So I think the agreement ends up putting the city and our citizens in a much better place,” said Nutter, adding that the ordinance is not a pro-marijuana endorsement.

The new decriminalization measure will still force offenders to make an appearance in front of a judge, but this will not result in a criminal record. Yet, anyone cited for public pot consumption will be given the opportunity to perform community service in order to have the courts waive the $100 fine, according to Nutter’s amendment.

“This will go a long way toward a much more saner and a much better policy for people in Philadelphia,” said Chris Goldstein with PhillyNORML. “This is something that should have happened earlier in the summer. It would have alleviated almost 1,000 people getting arrested.”

City Councilman Jim Kenney, the lawmaker responsible for developing the bill, says he feels confident that the amended ordinance will be an upgrade to the current law, which has been responsible for branding otherwise innocent people with criminal records because of weed.

“We’ve gotten to a place where it is out of the criminal realm,” said Kenney during an interview with KYW Newsradio. “There’s no more handcuffs, no more bookings, no more criminal record … We have so many people that we are putting in the prison pipeline, and the poverty pipeline, because a criminal record is a debilitating thing.”

The real question now is whether Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey will call off the dogs in regards to minor marijuana busts. Earlier this year, Ramsey was quoted as saying “State law trumps city ordinances,” which could spell trouble for Philly’s newfound pot laws.

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