Philadelphia city council
votes to decriminalize pot possession
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[June 20, 2014]
By Daniel Kelley
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) -
The Philadelphia City Council on Thursday passed a
measure decriminalizing possession of small amounts of
marijuana, following a wave of U.S. states and cities
lowering penalties on the drug.
The city council voted 13-to-3 to make possession of less than one
ounce (30 grams) of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $25
fine. The approval vote carried a wide enough margin to override a
possible veto by Mayor Michael Nutter, who has not taken a clear
"It is obviously a complicated piece of legislation," Nutter told
the local CBS television affiliate. "Concerns have been expressed by
Police Commissioner (Charles) Ramsey, DA Seth Williams, and
representatives in our court system. So we'll read through the
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but a growing number of
state and local governments have moved to treat possession no more
seriously than a traffic ticket.
Fifteen states and 35 cities across the country have passed
decriminalization laws, with Washington, D.C., in March approving a
measure similar to Philadelphia's, also imposing a $25 fine for
Noting that Philadelphia police arrest about 4,000 people per year
for possessing small amounts of pot, proponents of the measure say
it will save the city millions of dollars on lab tests, police
overtime and jail costs while allowing officers to devote more time
to serious crime.
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Proponents of decriminalization have noted that African-Americans
are roughly five times more likely that whites to be arrested for
possession, though there is no evidence that the two populations use
marijuana at different rates.
Since 2010, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has treated
marijuana possession as a summary offense, avoiding trials and the
need for attorneys for defendants who agree to three-hour
educational course on the impact of drugs in the community.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)
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