Weed is “Decriminalized” in Philly. Officially. Really this time.

Photo: Kenneth Lipp

Photo: Kenneth Lipp

By Kenneth Lipp

WELL, NOT YET.  The bill that Michael Nutter signed today in the Mayor’s Reception Room will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana (less than 30 grams) effective October 20th. Mayor Nutter thanked the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Jim Kenney, for setting the tone and spearheading what Nutter said he expected would be “one of the most important pieces of public policy legislation in recent times.”

Nutter also signed an Executive Order intended to enhance the “prevention” strategy regarding drug use, in line with the most recent White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recommendation of changing focus away from enforcement to educating and treating non-violent drug-offenders.

In his remarks, the Mayor emphasized on multiple occasions that marijuana was still illegal. “The difference is that now if you are found possessing small amounts of marijuana, you will not be treated like a criminal.”

The mayor said that small amounts of marijuana found by police would still be “confiscated, issued a property receipt, and analyzed.” He also said that parents would be responsible for civil violations by minors.

Nutter, as well as other city officials including Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, rejected an earlier version of the bill when it passed the City Council in June with a sufficient majority to override a potential veto.  Ramsey stated at the time that his officers would be conducting arrests as usual per state law irrespective of any new ordinance.

When asked by The Declaration to comment on Ramsey’s statement, Nutter replied: “A lot of things have been said. What’s different is this time we went through a process….and today we’re signing this bill into law. That was so long ago I don’t even remember what was said.”

About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

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