A Philadelphia measure to decriminalize cannabis possession, introduced by Councilmember Jim Kenney, has been approved by the full Council with a 13 to 3 vote, and now awaits consideration by the city’s mayor, who has until September to either sign the bill into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.
Under the proposed law, the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis would become a simple $25 fine. According to Councilmember Kenney, the proposal would save the city millions of dollars in reduced enforcement and court costs, and it would spare thousands of individuals from having a life-altering arrest over the personal possession of a natural, nonlethal substance. Kenney notes that in 2012, there were over 4,000 arrests for simple cannabis possession, more than some states.
“I think the problem is carrying an arrest record around for probably most of your life when you make a mistake as a 25-year-old,” says Kenney. “That is more obnoxious than anything else we’re concerned about here.”
Officers would still have the discretion to arrest an individual under state law if the situation warrants it, giving activists a strong incentive to continue working for reform on the state and national level.