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Philadelphia City Council approves decriminalizing marijuana

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For some it’s hard to imagine the idea that marijuana is slowly becoming decriminalized in cities across the nation, and remains a heated political debate. Reported yesterday, the City of Philadelphia approved a cannabis bill, which would decriminalize the possession up to an ounce (about 30 grams). But not everyone is happy with the new bill, apparently the cities police commissioner has been vocal about ignoring the new regulations.

Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner, Charles H. Ramsey, said he would ignore the law. He told Philly.com, if the bill is signed by the Mayor, “we still have to treat it as a misdemeanor,” Ramsey said. “Until we are told otherwise by the state … State law trumps city ordinances.” However, The Weed Blog reported that Martha Johnston, senior attorney for the city believes the police commissioner is wrong, because “the bill isn’t preempted by the state Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act.”

Councilman James F. Kenney sponsored the bill. He said, other jurisdictions within the state have not objected or challenged giving a small fine of $25 if a citizen is found with small amounts of marijuana. Kenney said, it's better than arresting them and giving them a criminal offense. Currently if a person is caught in possession of marijuana with less than 30 grams they are subject to 30 days incarceration, and a max fine of $500 (which doesn’t include court costs). Kenney wrote an urgency letter to Mayor Nutter asking him to approve the bill as soon as possible, rather than arresting hundreds of young people, and giving them criminal records, “when it can be avoided.”

Furthermore, the new bill also serves to “save the city more than $4 million dollars each year in the Public Safety Budget,” according to a press release from Philly NORML. The educational site that promotes normalizing marijuana in the state of Philadelphia. They also report that each year more than 4,000 people are arrested with 30 grams or less. These arrests take time from officers, whom also need to find room in holding cells. One of the main purposes of Kenney’s bill is to have police concentrate on more serious crimes.

But no one has heard a peep from Mayor Michael Nutter regarding him signing the new bill or not. Nevertheless, if Nutter refuses to sign the bill; the council can overturn the Mayor’s decision, it only takes 12 council members to veto his decision. A veto could happen since the council passed it with a vote of 13-3. But the Philadelphia Police Commissioner, also known as a hard-nut-to-crack told Philly.com, “I am not in favor at all of any form of legalization.” It appears Ramsey isn't changing his mind regardless the amount of money the bill could save taxpayers, and the time saved for his fellow police officers .

It's a bit ironic to think the City of Philadelphia decriminalizing marijuana is not accepted by everyone; cigarettes are known to cause a diversity of chronic illnesses and death, “but” (no pun intended) they’re totally legalized -- and we don’t see police arresting people in possession of those coffin nails. Philly citizens should know by September if Mayor Nutter will sign.

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