Congrats to Philadelphia! Today Decriminalization Takes Effect

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It’s official: cannabis possession (in small amounts) is now decriminalized within the city limits of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There are no longer criminal penalties attached to simple marijuana possession if the individual is carrying 30 grams or less. Instead, those violating cannabis prohibition will simply receive a civil infraction citation (commonly known as a ticket).

What is the penalty attached to a marijuana possession ticket? A whopping $25. There’s a stiffer fine for those caught consuming cannabis in public. Overt marijuana use will now result in an $100 fine and possibly up to nine hours of community service. The real downside is that law enforcement officials will be confiscating the marijuana they find on individuals, but that’s a far cry from a free trip to the county jail.

The ominous underside to this legal reform is that the new decriminalization law requires that those caught with marijuana in their possession must present valid, state-issued identification to the law enforcement officers present. As Ladybud has previously cautioned, this particular loophole in the law will ensure that the economically disadvantaged and people of color in Philadelphia will still be subject to higher rates of police harassment, arrest, and incarceration.

Additionally, decriminalization is problematic as it does nothing to legitimize means of production or distribution of marijuana. That means that although citizens can walk about with their stash in their pocket, relatively secure in their freedom, they still have to purchase their cannabis on the black market and possibly finance organized crime in the process.

Still, this imperfect new law makes Philadelphia the largest city in the United States to effectively decriminalize marijuana possession. That, in and of itself, deserves to be celebrated. Congratulations, Philadelphia! There are likely spliffs burning across the country today in honor of your progress. May you inspire other municipalities to follow suit!

For previous Ladybud articles about Philadelphia’s cannabis reform efforts, click here!

Photo Credit: Michael Gray under (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr