Marijuana arrests dip sharply in first month of new Philadelphia law

Decriminalization leads to far fewer charges by police.

After the first full month since Philadelphia became the largest city in America to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, the results are in.

Cops handed out 20 citations — similar to tickets — for possession of small amounts of marijuana between Oct. 20, when the law went into effect, and Nov. 20. Most of those cited were released at the scene. During the same period, police also made 72 arrests for possession, a criminal charge, according to data compiled by the Philadelphia Police Department.
By comparison, police arrested 380 people in October 2013 for marijuana possession. Another 266 were arrested for the same offense in November 2013, according to the city’s Uniform Crime Report.

Marijuana activist Chris Goldstein, who first requested the data from police, called the recent numbers “a pretty sharp decline.”

“We certainly hope that there will eventually be more citations than custodial arrests,” he said, “but still, even if you just look at the reduction of overall arrests, that’s still a positive thing for the city.”

Under the new law, anyone found possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana will face a $25 fine. For public use, the fine is $100, or up to nine months of community service.
“As the rest of the country is talking about legalizing it and taxing it,” Goldstein said, “at least we’re not arresting more than 300 people a month anymore.”

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