Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jun 2014
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Authors: W. Wilson Goode Sr., John F. Street
Page: 12


CITY COUNCIL today will consider final passage of Bill No. 140377, 
introduced by Councilman Jim Kenney, which would allow police to 
issue a $25 fine for the possession of a small amount of marijuana 
(under 1 ounce) instead of the current policy of mandatory custodial 
arrests. In 2012, the current policy led to the arrest of about 4,270 
people for marijuana possession.

Under the Kenney bill, most of these people would ultimately be fined 
$25. The police would have 17,000 hours to do serious police work. 
The courts would not have to hear these cases. The D.A. would not 
have to try these cases. The families would not have to hire and pay 
lawyers to handle these cases. The city would not have to pay the 
Defender Association or other lawyers to represent indigent 
defendants in these cases. The defendants would not be at unnecessary 
risk of a criminal record and all the lifetime disadvantages that go with it.

We support Councilman Kenney's proposal and respectfully request 
members of Council consider doing the same.

Philadelphia is the only county in Pennsylvania that still handcuffs, 
jails and gives criminal arrest records to its citizens for marijuana 

Despite the fact that marijuana use is virtually identical across all 
ethnic and racial identities, 84 percent of the 4,272 arrests made 
solely for the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 
Philadelphia in 2012 involved African-Americans.

Councilman Kenney's proposal is not a solution to larger issues, such 
as the criminal justice system that negatively affects minority 
communities, but it is one step in the right direction - a step that 
would be unnecessary if officials in Harrisburg were more proactive 
and progressive.

We also know that public opinion is shifting rapidly on this topic. 
According to a February Quinnipiac University poll of registered 
Pennsylvania voters, 85 percent support the legalization of medical 
marijuana; 48 percent (the highest recorded number) support outright 
legalization; and 44 percent reported having tried marijuana themselves.

Philadelphia must take this opportunity to do more. The policy of 
mandatory arrests and possible criminal records for thousands of 
young people needs to end.

We believe this bill points Philadelphia in the right direction. We 
are pleased to support it and urge all Philadelphians to do likewise.

W. Wilson Goode Sr. Mayor of Philadelphia (1984-92) John F. Street 
Mayor of Philadelphia (2001-08)
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