PENNSYLVANIA: Cannabis consumers will gather at Philadelphia City Hall on Saturday, October 20, 2018 to participate in a Pop Up Weed Garden to celebrate a bit more liberty for the plant.
Four years ago, Philadelphia Police (PPD) began issuing civil fine tickets in lieu of a criminal arrest for small amounts of marijuana. Jeanine Campbell with South Philly NORML said, “We’re celebrating because this day marked the beginning of a new era of cannabis reform in Philadelphia.”
The bill was championed by Jim Kenney, who at this time was the at-large City Councilor, and passed with a super-majority. Mayor Michael Nutter signed the bill on October 1, 2014, and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey implemented the new procedure on October 20, 2014.
Instead of handcuffs and prosecution, those found in possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of hash/concentrates are written a $25 Code Violation Notice (CVN). Smoking in public gets a $100 CVN fine.
Arrests of cannabis consumers immediately plummeted from more than 5,000 per year to less than 600. This means there have been nearly 20,000 fewer people bought into the criminal justice system over small amounts of weed. Budget savings are estimated at more than $16 million since the ordinance went into effect.
This year, newly elected District Attorney Larry Krasner announced his office would no longer charge anyone with a crime – even if they are still arrested – over a decriminalized amount of cannabis. Activists have marked the shift from the first day when U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran and legalization advocate Mike Whiter met with a PPD officer at City Hall to receive the first ticket.
Two years later, on October 20, 2016, a “Pop Up Weed Garden” was staged in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Eakins’ Oval. Hundreds of cannabis consumers celebrated the plant, and a hint of newfound freedom.
This year, advocates who worked on the effort, including Chris Goldstein, will gather at City Hall on Saturday, October 20th to mark the occasion with local consumers at 4:20 PM. Goldstein said, “It’s time for Philadelphia to begin charting the path forward for full legalization. There are hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers here in Philly,” said Goldstein, “It’s time to begin offering safe marijuana products at a low price, and allowing home cultivation.”
Philadelphia’s 2014 decriminalization shift inspired other cities to downgrade possession fines and penalties. Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, Bethlehem, Allentown, Erie, State College, and Lancaster have passed ordinances. The PA House Judiciary recently approved HB928 to consider the move statewide.
Meanwhile, reports from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Newark Star-Ledger have shown a recent spike in marijuana possession arrests in communities that maintain criminal prohibition.
Advocates remain hopeful that a full legalization effort, spearheaded by Rep. Jake Wheatley (D- Allegheny), will gain momentum in 2019.
CONTACT: Chris Goldstein (267) 702 3731