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Location of Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, located in the Northeastern United States at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. The city is the economic and cultural center of the Delaware Valley. The population of Philadelphia, the state's only consolidated city-county, was measured at more than 1.5 million in 2010.


In September 2014, Mayor Michael Nutter agreed to sign a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, after City Council made a few changes to the original bill drafted by councilman Jim Kenney. Kenney had proposed that police issue citations similar to parking tickets for possession of an ounce of marijuana or less. He and Nutter compromised, resulting in an infraction known as a "non-summary civil offense".[1] Cited individuals would have to pay a fine ($25 for possession of an ounce of less, or $100 for public smoking, unless the fee is waived by community service hours) and appear before a municipal court judge. However, there would be no criminal record.[1] Philadelphia Police officers will confiscate any marijuana they find, and citations issued will be processed through the City of Philadelphia’s Municipal Court system.[2]

The bill is scheduled to be amended on September 11, 2014, when City Council is back in session from summer recess. A final vote is planned for the the following week, before going to the mayor for his signature.[1] Once passed by City Council and signed by the Mayor, the ordinance will go into effect beginning October 20, 2014.[2]

According to Kenney, the policy change will prevent 4,000 arrests and $4 million per year. He said, "We've gotten to a place where it is out of the criminal realm. There's no more handcuff, no more bookings, no more criminal record. Police will not have to leave their posts and go to the station house to deal with this. People will pay a fine based on the offense: $25 for the possession of anything under an ounce... There will be no criminal record for an individual. And that's a major step. We have so many people that we are putting in the prison pipeline, and the poverty pipeline, because a criminal record is a debilitating thing."[1] Nutter praised Kenney for his efforts. He said, "So I think the agreement ends up putting the city and our citizens in a much better place", but insisted the policy change is not the same as condoning cannabis consumption. "This is about how we deal with penalties in that regard And there will be penalties. There's a consequence to people violating the law."[1]

In a September 10 press release by the City of Philadelphia, Nutter said: "This bill will not legalize marijuana. Rather, it will decriminalize marijuana – which means that offenses involving small amounts of marijuana will result in a civil penalty, not an arrest or criminal record. We want to ensure that the punishment for using or possessing small amount of marijuana is commensurate with the severity of the crime while giving police officers the tools they need to protect the health 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.” In the same press release, Kenney said: "I am very pleased that we have reached this commonsense agreement that will improve opportunity for countless Philadelphians. 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.[2]


Additional Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Nutter Agrees to Sign Bill Softening Marijuana Laws in Philadelphia by Mike Dunn (September 8, 2014), CBS Philly. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mayor Nutter, Councilman Kenney Announce Agreement To Amend Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana (September 10, 2014), City of Philadelphia's News & Alerts. Retrieved September 12, 2014.