Weed Decriminalized in Philadelphia

Mayor Nutter signs the new legislation to decriminalize marijuana in Philadelphia.
Mayor Nutter signs the new legislation to decriminalize marijuana in Philadelphia. philly.com | Creative Commons
On October 1, 2014, Mayor Nutter signed a new piece of legislation to decriminalize marijuana within the Philadelphia area. From October 20 on, this new law will fine people around twenty-five dollars if thirty grams of marijuana or less are found on them. This eliminates arrests and charging individuals with small amounts in their possession, due to it now being downgraded to a civil offense. This does not legalize marijuana within Pennsylvania; if an individual is found with more than thirty grams on their person, is charged with a DUI, or fails to show ID when confronted, they will still be charged with a criminal offense.

Philadelphia seeks to educate its residents about this new law and the process behind deciding to put it into action over the coming months. The mayor, who was once against this law when it was originally proposed in May of this year, attributed his change of heart to the fact that too many Philadelphians were being punished for small amounts of pot. Originally it was a two-hundred dollar fine, in addition to a required drug course and an arrest record. However, some argue that this change came about after studies showed the racially disparate arrest rates within Philadelphia.

Nutter also signed an order to help ex-convicts be provided with the appropriate services to eventually have their records expunged. On the morning that the law went into effect, pot-advocate Mike Whiter lit up right outside of City Hall conveniently next to an officer. After receiving his citation (the first written in Philadelphia), he explained to reporters that he continues to fight for legalization of medical marijuana, and has even started the Pennsylvania Veterans for Medical Marijuana foundation. As a retired veteran, he suffers from severe PTSD, and for years was prescribed harmful drugs that altered his personality and seemed to do more harm than good. Once he began using marijuana as a means of medication, he found the results to be very satisfying. He told reporters, “we still can’t get our medicine legally. I can go out and smoke and get a $100 fine. I won’t get put in cuffs, but I’m still not going to have legal access to my medicine.”

Back in September, The Pennsylvania Senate passed a revised bill, known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act. However, even if this legislation were to pass in the future, it would still limit the ways in which medical marijuana could be administered to patients. Both vaporizing and smoking cannabis would be prohibited, and the list of conditions and exceptions for this bill are extremely constrained and do not include individuals with severe or debilitating pain. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett does not support the use of medical marijuana, despite polls showing that many residents do in fact support its use. Also, the state of Pennsylvania is nearly surrounded by states who support the medical marijuana bill, and with the upcoming elections for governor fast approaching, it is impossible to predict the outcome in this fight for legalization.

Sources: Huffington Post, MPP.org, Phillymag.com

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