Philadelphia Mayor Signs Marijuana Decrim Bill

While Independence Hall is federal property, the rest of Philadelphia is now under a new law that favors marijuana users.

The decrim train rolled into Philadelphia on June 19 as the City Council voted 13-3 to end marijuana arrests. As of Oct. 20, if you're caught with 30 grams or less, the worst that can happen is a $25 fine. Just don't puff in public.

PhillyNORML led the decrim charge.

“This is nothing short of a historic day for civil rights in Philadelphia,” PhillyNORML co-chair Chris Goldstein said at the time. “We can now stop the practice of having the harshest penalties in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for having a small amount of marijuana.”

There was one problem: Mayor Michael Nutter refused to get on board until a provision banning pubiic was added to the bill, sponsored by Councilman Jim Kenney. Three months later, on Sept. 18, the Council voted 14-2 in favor of the new language. Now if someone is caught lighting up on the street or in a park they can receive a citation, punishable by a $100 fine or up to nine hours of community service.

Nutter officially signed the decrim bill into law on Oct. 1. It goes into effect Oct. 20.

Currently, Philadelphia law calls for arrests and detention for those caught with marijuana, "a practice that is not replicated anywhere else in Pennsylvania," Goldstein notes. The fine is $200.

More than 4,000 Philadelphia residents, primarily minorities, have been getting arrested for pot each year, costing the city 17,000 hours of police time, and $3 million in booking and jail costs, according to Kenney.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.