Tax and Regulate

PA: Final marijuana listening tour stops announced, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

Make your voices heard in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, McKeesport, Bucks County, Cameron County, or Potter County.

With more than 60 tour stops done, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is nearing the end of his 67-county listening tour. If you haven’t already made your voice heard in person, these next 10 days are your last chance. The final listening tour stops will bring Fetterman to multiple locations in Philadelphia, as well as Pittsburgh, south Allegheny County, and Bucks, Cameron, and Potter Counties.

Let’s make sure supporters finish strong, and that elected officials hear from the strong majority of Pennsylvanians who support replacing prohibition with sensible regulation.

Pittsburgh (central Allegheny County)
Saturday, May 11, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.
Community Empowerment Association
7120 Kelly Street, 15208

McKeesport (south Allegheny County)
Saturday, May 11, 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.
Penn State Greater Allegheny, Wunderly Gymnasium
4000 University Drive, 15132

Jim Thorpe (Carbon County)
Monday, May 13, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Jim Thorpe Area High School auditorium
1 Olympian Way, 18229

Coudersport (Potter County)
Tuesday, May 14, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Coudersport Volunteer Fire Department
171 Route 6 West, 16915

Newtown (Bucks County)
Wednesday, May 15, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Bucks County Community College, Zlock Performing Arts Center
275 Swamp Road, 18940

Emporium (Cameron County)
Thursday, May 16, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Cameron County Junior-Senior High School auditorium
601 Woodland Avenue, 15834

Northeast Philadelphia (Philadelphia County)
Saturday, May 18, noon to 1:30 p.m.
Northeast High School auditorium
1501 Cottman Avenue, 19111

Southwest Philadelphia (Philadelphia County)
Saturday, May 18, 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.
University of the Sciences auditorium, STC 145 McNeil Science and Technology Center
4308 Woodland Avenue, 19026

Northwest Philadelphia (Philadelphia County)
Sunday, May 19, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.
Temple University, Gittis Student Center, Room 200
1755 N. 13th Street, 19122

Southeast Philadelphia (Philadelphia County)
Sunday, May 19, 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
Horace H. Furness High School auditorium
900 S. Third Street, 19148

When deciding what you'd like to say, feel free to draw from our document on the Top 10 reasons to end marijuana prohibition or other materials. You may want to consider making a pitch for an inclusive, diverse industry, for allowing home cultivation, and for expunging past convictions.

Even if you're not up for speaking in public, you can still make your voice heard. Fetterman has been asking for a show of hands for supporters and opponents, and the governor's office is soliciting feedback on the issue online.

This is a great opportunity to build momentum for commonsense, humane marijuana laws. Don't miss your chance to let your elected officials know it's time to stop branding Pennsylvanians criminals for a substance that's safer than alcohol.

And please spread the word to help grow the chorus for reform.

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Erie City Council Votes Unanimously to Decriminalize Possession

Last week, the Erie, Pennsylvania, City Council voted unanimously to make the possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana into a summary offense with a $25 fine. Currently, the penalty is up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both. The mayor is expected to sign the measure into law.

Once enacted, Erie will join Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, and State College — and 22 states and the District of Columbia — all of which have stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Across the state, towns and cities are considering similar commonsense policies. Unfortunately, however, law enforcement can still enforce state law and impose criminal penalties and possible jail time.

Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.

To get involved locally, contact the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. You can find some background materials on decriminalization here. And please let your lawmakers know it is time for statewide decriminalization.

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Another Pennsylvania City Decriminalizes Possession

Early this week in Pennsylvania, the York City Council voted to make the possession of small amounts of marijuana a summary offense with a maximum fine of $100 and no jail time. Previously, it was a criminal misdemeanor that carried up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.

Imprisoning individuals for possessing small amounts of a substance that is safer than alcohol wastes valuable resources and can lead to a lifetime of harsh consequences, including denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.

York joins Pennsylvania’s three largest cities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg — and twenty-two states and the District of Columbia, which have stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Across the state, towns and cities are considering similar commonsense policies. The time has come for statewide decriminalization.

To get involved locally, contact the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. You can find some background materials on decriminalization here.

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Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

[caption id="attachment_8152" align="alignright" width="220"] Mayor Michael Nutter[/caption] reported today that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed Jim Kenney’s bill that replaces criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket. The bill is set to go into effect on October 20, 2014.

The initial version of the bill approved by the city council on June 19 makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine. After negotiations between the mayor and members of the city council, the final version of the bill was amended to include a $100 fine for public consumption, or a nine-hour community service requirement.

“Philadelphia voters and their elected officials are fed up with laws that criminalize people for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” said Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “They disproportionately impact communities of color and do nothing to make people safer. We applaud city officials for taking this important step toward a more sensible marijuana policy. It is time for the rest of the state to follow its lead.”

Possession of over 30 grams, as well as distribution irrespective of weight, however, still registers as a criminal offense. A tweet from the city of Philadelphia says you are also still subject to arrest for failing to show proper identification to a police officer if caught with marijuana under the new law.

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Members of Community Groups Congratulate Philadelphia Mayor on Marijuana Bill

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="135"] Mayor Michael Nutter[/caption]

According to The Philadelphia Tribune, members of the Institute for the Development of African American Youth (IDAAY), as well as other organizations, congratulated Mayor Michael Nutter for agreeing to sign a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Philadelphia.

Archye Lealock, IDAAY’s executive director, and others continued on with a rally Wednesday at City Hall even after the agreement earlier in the week between Nutter and the chief legislative sponsor of the bill, Councilman James Kenney.

“I am very pleased that we have reached this commonsense agreement that will improve opportunity for countless Philadelphians,” Kenney stated. “Under this new policy, police officers will be able to remain focused on more serious offenses, and 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.”

However, using and possessing any amount of marijuana will not be legal in Philadelphia. The amended bill will decriminalize possession of the plant in small amounts. An offense involving 30 grams or less will result in a civil penalty — a citation and $25 fine — and not an arrest or criminal record.

Kenney, Lealock, and other stakeholders of the bill have long distressed the costs involved with prosecuting marijuana possession in small amounts. Annually, $3 million is spent, in addition to the 17,000 police hours dedicated to arresting citizens in possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“We want to ensure that the punishment for using or possessing a small amount of marijuana is commensurate with the severity of the crime while giving police officers the tools they need to protect the heath and well-being of all Philadelphians. Our agreement on this bill is an example of the legislative process working to bring people together, create discussion around an important issue and ultimately reach consensus,” the mayor said.

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Philly Mayor Agrees to Compromise, Will Sign Decriminalization Bill

[caption id="attachment_8031" align="alignright" width="240"]Jim kenney Councilman Jim Kenney[/caption]

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that he had agreed to sign a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Philadelphia, with one small tweak. The bill was first introduced by Councilman Jim Kenney. In June, the City Council voted 13-3 to replace the current penalties of a $200 fine and an arrest record for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana, with a civil fine of $25. Mayor Nutter’s compromise deal would still make smoking in public punishable by a $100 fine.

A 2013 report by the ACLU found that, although marijuana use is nearly identical across all races, African Americans in Pennsylvania are 5.2 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white neighbors. Councilman Kenney estimates this measure could save the Philadelphia Police Department up to $4 million annually. Some reports estimate that the City of Brotherly Love would become the largest American city to adopt this sensible measure.

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Philadelphia Bill Seeks to End Arrests in Cases of Minor Marijuana Possession

Jun 23, 2014 Kate Zawidzki

Michael Nutter, Philadelphia, Reading Eagle

A bill that would allow Philadelphia’s police department to cease arrests in minor marijuana possession cases has passed the City Council with a veto-proof majority, Reading Eagle reports. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has until September to make the decision to either veto or sign the bill. His spokesman has not made it clear if he is inclined to sign the bill. The Nutter administration said that it appreciates the intent of the bill to save the city’s criminal justice system time and money. Supporters of the bill believe that it could save the city up to $4 million a year and spare offenders criminal records for what they believe are minor infractions.

The bill itself would no longer require police officers to arrest offenders who possess less than 30 grams of marijuana and would allow them to issue a $25 fine instead. Officers would still be allowed to arrest someone if they could not properly identify themselves or had outstanding warrants. The bill also does not change the law for selling marijuana, driving under the influence, or possession by minors.

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Philadelphia’s New Marijuana Policy Takes Effect

The City of Brotherly Love just got a little kinder.

Beginning today, anyone in Philadelphia who is found possessing up to one ounce of marijuana could have his or her charge downgraded from a misdemeanor to a summary offense.

Under the new policy, which was announced in April by new district attorney Seth Williams, offenders will still be processed by law enforcement, but most can have their records expunged after they take a class and pay a $200 fine. Officials hope the change will help clear the city’s clogged court system.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"You're still arrested, you're still brought in, you're still fingerprinted, you're still given a prelim," said Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office.

Only at the preliminary arraignment are procedures changing, as many cases will be "diverted" from misdemeanor charges, said McCann.

That won't be automatic either.

Some reasons for withholding leniency for pot possession include attempting to sell, being caught during a serious crime, and having a criminal record.”

While the new policy is a far cry from removing all penalties for marijuana possession, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

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Philadelphia Officials Move to Decriminalize Marijuana

Encouraging news from the City of Brotherly Love today: Philadelphia’s new district attorney and members of the state Supreme Court are taking steps to remove criminal penalties for people arrested with up to 30 grams (or a little more than an ounce) of marijuana. Under the new approach, those caught with marijuana would face a possible fine, but receive no criminal conviction.

“The goal,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “is to sweep about 3,000 small-time marijuana cases annually out of the main court system, freeing prosecutors and judges to devote time to more serious crimes. The diverted cases amount to about 5 percent of the caseload in criminal court.”

But in a frustrating case of two steps forward, one step back, a Philly police spokesman tells the paper, “We’re not going to stop locking people up … our officers are trained to do that. Whether or not they make it through the charging process, that’s up to the D.A. We can’t control that. Until they legalize it, we’re not going to stop.”

What a nuanced view.

Maybe someone should tell that guy how police in Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, and more than a dozen other cities have followed orders to make marijuana a “lowest law enforcement priority” with few complications or adverse consequences. Except, you know, for police having to focus their efforts on more serious crimes.

In any case, decriminalizing marijuana in Philadelphia—the sixth most populous city in the United States—would be a major boon for marijuana policy reform efforts in cities all across the country. Let’s hope it happens.

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