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As of yesterday Philadelphia is the largest city in America to have decriminalized marijuana. Under the new law offenders will receive a $100 fine for consuming marijuana in public and a $25 fine for possession of up to 30 grams, neither will result in an arrest. Marijuana advocate, US Marine Veteran, and medical marijuana patient Mike Whiter happily accepted the first citation after he urgently sparked a joint in City Hall’s courtyard with police by nearby. Immediately following the first puff the citation was issued and received with a smile.

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Whiter sat down with Philly Mag to discuss his motivations and long term goals regarding marijuana.

What message are you trying to send by smoking up at City Hall?

“My intention is to point out that Philadelphia finally decriminalized marijuana, that it’s the largest city in the country to do so, and I’m here representing veterans who use marijuana for medicine. And we still can’t get our medicine legally. I can go out and smoke and get a $100 fine. I won’t get put in cuffs, but I’m still not going to have legal access to my medicine.”

How involved were the police ahead of time?

“We’ve been having discussions with the police since Smoke Down Prohibition VI. After that, we decided that we’d extend an olive branch to them and let them know what our intentions were: just non-violent protesters trying to get our medicine. They were very receptive to sitting down with us and cooperating with us.”

One of the main topics with decriminalization is the racial bias involved with marijuana arrests, and the hope that decriminalization will free up police to fight more serious crimes. Do you think this law will put a dent in that?

“Minorities are arrested at a five-times higher rate than white people in Philly. I walk down Broad Street smoking a joint and nobody says a word to me. Black kid walks next to me, and we’ll both get nailed. It’s just not right. … The racial bias in marijuana arrests is something that we want to point out. The Mayor talks about focusing on real issues like how black men can’t get jobs, but guess what, black men can’t get jobs because they have arrests.”

Read more at: Philly Mag

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