Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed City Council legislation to decriminalize the possession and use of 30 grams or less of marijuana in the City of Philadelphia, and an executive order which directs the implementation of the law and coordinates supporting public services, including expungement, addiction treatment, educational programming and an informational outreach campaign.
“In addition to signing this ordinance, which does not legalize marijuana but makes the penalties commensurate with the violation, I am proud to announce that the City of Philadelphia is launching an outreach campaign to educate residents about the impact and consequences of marijuana use and how they can get help to overcome the habit,” said Mayor Nutter. “This approach is consistent with President Obama’s 2014 National Drug Control Strategy Report, which represents a national shift toward policies that emphasize prevention, treatment and recovery. I do not condone marijuana use, it is illegal. But the punishment needs to be proportionate to the crime, and these are common sense changes that will have a positive impact on many Philadelphians.”
While the use and possession of any amount of marijuana remains illegal, the penalties have been altered to eliminate arrests for non-violent offenders. For possession, an individual will receive a Notice of Violation and $25 fine. For public use, an individual will receive a Notice of Violation and $100 fine, or up to nine hours of community service. These changes will be effective beginning Monday, October 20, 2014.
Individuals will no longer be arrested for use and possession of small amounts of marijuana (30 grams or less), nor will they receive a criminal record for such use or possession. When an individual is stopped for use or possession, police officers will confiscate the marijuana and provide it to the Philadelphia Police Department Forensics Unit for possible testing of substances. Finally, parents and guardians can be held liable for violations of their minor children.
Mayor Nutter added, “I would like to thank Councilman Kenney for his leadership on this issue, all my colleagues in City Council, Philadelphia Municipal Court President Judge Neifield and her colleagues at the Courts, District Attorney Williams, Police Commissioner Ramsey, Superintendent Dr. Hite and all the other individuals who worked with my office on this important initiative. It is as a result of our common purpose to best serve the citizens of Philadelphia that we were able to work collaboratively on such an important matter.”
The Executive Order signed by Mayor Nutter authorizes the launch of a public outreach campaign to educate Philadelphians regarding the new regulations through public services announcements (PSAs) and the distribution of palm cards at City facilities such as Health Centers, Police Districts, and The Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (R.I.S.E.). The palm cards and PSAs will reinforce that marijuana use and possession is still illegal, provide information on addiction treatment services, and remind individuals that they can still be arrested for distributing marijuana, failing to provide accurate information to the police if stopped, driving under the influence of marijuana or possessing more than 30 grams of marijuana.
Also included in the Executive Order is the City’s support of effective substance abuse and violence prevention programs for students and adults. Last year, the School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with the University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and the City of Philadelphia, implemented the LifeSkills Training Program at twelve middle schools throughout the city. The program provides students with the skills to resist drug, alcohol and tobacco use. In addition to dissuading students from substance abuse, the program promotes high self-esteem and violence prevention. The School District reached out to middle school principals to invite them to participate in the program at no cost to the school for the 2014-2015 school year, with almost $200,000 in available funding provided by a grant from the University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence with assistance from the City.
The City’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) offers drug treatment services for individuals in and out of the criminal justice system. The Department provides behavioral health services by working directly with the court system, District Attorney’s Office and Public Defenders Association to refer individuals to drug-dependence treatment programs. Furthermore, DBHIDS contracts with more than 200 providers throughout Philadelphia to provide addiction treatment options for those with and without medical insurance. Individuals seeking treatment for marijuana misuse and dependence should call 1-888-545-2600 for referral services.
The City also is increasing its collaboration with Community Legal Services (CLS) to augment the funding for criminal record expungement services for all residents with a criminal record from an arrest or conviction. The City will provide CLS with $100,000 to assist those individuals who have been arrested or convicted for marijuana use or possession, as well as other individuals in Philadelphia who have criminal records eligible for expungement.
“Providing expungement services to some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable residents is critical to our mission of ensuring equity for low-income Philadelphians,” said Catherine C. Carr, Executive Director of Community Legal Services. “We look forward to working with the City to ensure that we can serve as many citizens as possible to provide them with a clean slate for their futures.”
In addition to these programs and outreach efforts, the City will continue to promote programs that divert eligible young people and adults from the criminal justice system.
• Philadelphia’s innovative School Diversion Program, which received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday, diverts students who commit low-level delinquent acts on or around school property from arrest and into Intensive Prevention Services. This program prevents young people from entering the juvenile justice system for minor offenses.
• The Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (R.I.S.E.) provides services like job training opportunities and record expungement to individuals who have been involved with the criminal justice system through arrest, conviction and/or incarceration. The Fatherhood Enrichment Program provides direct services such as parenting skills trainings, child support assistance, and GED classes to noncustodial fathers including those who have a criminal record.
• The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is working with Philadelphia and 250 jurisdictions across the country to reform juvenile detention practices to divert nonviolent juvenile defendants from placement in locked detention facilities prior to their court hearing.