Critics of the war on drugs are having one hell of a week.
First California passes a law Sunday to equalize the prison sentences that black and white defendants convicted of drug crimes receive, and then, on Wednesday, Philadelphia passed legislation that will require police officers to ticket people who are in possession of small amounts of marijuana instead of arresting them. That change drastically decriminalizes the drug.
“The new law, which takes effect on Oct. 20, makes Philadelphia the largest U.S. city to decriminalize the DEA-categorized Schedule 1 drug amid a growing number of U.S. cities and states that have reduced or eliminated penalties for recreational users,” Al-Jazeera explains.
People caught in possession of less than an ounce will be fined $25—people caught getting high will be fined $100. Neither transgression will become part of the person’s criminal record.
Councilman Jim Kenney described how the legislation will hopefully get rid of some of the racial bias that exists in the criminal-justice system. “Of the 4,614 arrests Philadelphia police made for small amounts of marijuana in 2013, 83 percent targeted African Americans, according to local media, even though studies show the number of black and white Americans who consume pot is roughly the same,” Al-Jazeera reports.
Plus, it’s a measure that 85 percent of people living in Pennsylvania support, and one that is gaining popularity nationwide, according to Al-Jazeera: “Fifteen states and 35 cities across the country have passed decriminalization laws, with Washington, D.C., in March approving a measure similar to Philadelphia's, also imposing a $25 fine for possession.”
Read more at Al-Jazeera.