Recreational marijuana users in Philadelphia can breathe a collective sign of relief; the city has just joined a growing list of cities in the United States to decriminalize marijuana, making possession of small amount a civil, rather than criminal offense.
The new law, signed on October 1st by Mayor Michael Nutter, starts on October 20th, according to Philly Magazine.
While the bill isn’t technically legalization, marijuana penalties have been reduced to tickets and fines. If a person is caught with 30 grams or less of marijuana, they will be fined $25. (Thirty grams is just a little over an ounce; most casual marijuana smokers tend to purchase much smaller quantities, 1/8 of an ounce or less.)
The penalty for smoking in public is higher; a person will be cited and fined $100, or made to perform nine hours of community service. Cops will also confiscate any marijuana they come across.
The new law will help repair a mostly-racist policy drug policy with selective prosecution that has been seen time and time again across the United States; police arrested 4,336 people for marijuana possession in 2013. Of those arrests 83% were African-Americans.
Racially biased arrests are a hallmark of the failed war on marijuana. In Pennsylvania, black people are 5 times more likely than white people to be arrested, tried and convicted for marijuana possession or use, according to a report by the ACLU, even though usage rates among black Americans and other races have remained roughly the same throughout the years. 90% of the 21,287 arrests in the State of Pennsylvania in 2010 for marijuana were for the offense of possession.