Two weeks ago Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter approved legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Today that law has officially gone into effect. The possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana will result in a civil fine of just $25. However, if you’re caught using marijuana, civil fines are bumped up to a $100 ticket and up to nine hours of community service.
“Under this policy, police officers will be able to remain focused on more serious offenses,” said City Councilman Jim Kenney who sponsored the bill. “Many young people will be spared the life-altering consequences of a criminal record, such as limited job prospects, inability to obtain student loans or even join the armed services.”
Philadelphia has now become the largest American city to decriminalize marijuana. Although marijuana remains illegal under state law, the amendment is a whole lot better than Philadelphia’s previous law, which punished any marijuana possession with at least a $200 fine, a drug abuse class and an permanent criminal record.
Decriminalization efforts across the country are gaining traction as it becomes increasingly evident that the drug war is failing our society. In particular, marijuana laws and subsequent enforcement of these laws are racially biased.
The ACLU says that 82% of marijuana possession arrests in Philadelphia are blacks while only about 44% percent of Philadelphians are black. Philadelphia’s efforts to eliminate racial disparities through the decriminalization of marijuana should serve as a template to other cities across America. Take a look at the graph below for some of the other American cities that are still incredibly biased in their enforcement of marijuana laws.
Photo Source: Politico.com