By Tom Beveridge.
Apparently, Philadelphia City Council decided that the Commonwealth is moving too slow on the issue of decriminalization of marijuana. City Council recently approved a bill – by 13 to 3 vote (split directly between Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed) – which was introduced by Councilman Jim Kenney earlier this year. The new ordinance provides that individuals who are caught with 30 grams (up to an ounce) of marijuana will no longer be arrested, but rather simply fined $25.00. Once paid, this entire situation could be erased from the individual’s criminal record. Of course, it’s logical you will lose your weed too.
The timing of the passage of this new ordinance (#140377) is interesting. City Council adjourned for the summer and will not reconvene till September. However, based upon the passage of this ordinance by the majority vote, it is considered “veto-proof”, even if Mayor Nutter decides not to sign the ordinance. The new ordinance will not take effect for at least 90 days. In the meantime, Councilman Kenney has asked Mayor Nutter to issue an executive order directing the police to follow the new ordinance effective immediately.
Based upon the statistics, this new ordinance will save the City millions of dollars. Currently, the City considers the offense as a mandatory arrest situation. The ordinance does not require that the police to simply fine each individual. Rather, the language simply provides police officers with more discretion regarding how they will charge an individual. Remember, under Pennsylvania law, possession of this amount of marijuana (under 30 grams or an ounce) is still a misdemeanor offense, punishable by 30 days in jail and a $500 fine – not to mention time on parole and/or probation, court costs, etc. If you have a gram over that (ie. 31 grams), you could be facing a misdemeanor punishable by up to a YEAR in prison and a $5,000 fine. The police can also attach charges such as intent to distribute, likewise a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Also, possession of paraphernalia – (pipe, bat, bong, even the old school roach clips!) is still also a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine in addition to costs, parole/probation, etc. Let me assure you, these potential charges are not all you could face under the current Commonwealth laws.
For a good summary of the new ordinance, see TJ Baker’s article on The Daily Chronic http://www.thedailychronic.net/2014/33707/philadelphia-city-council-votes-to-decriminalize-marijuana-possession/