The news: Breathe easy, potheads of Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love is about to become the largest in the country to decriminalize marijuana.
Mayor Michael Nutter will sign a decriminalization bill, passed by the Philadelphia City Council in May, this week, according to an official with direct knowledge of the legislation. The bill was first introduced by Councilman Jim Kenney in May and would reduce the penalty for possession of an ounce (30 grams) of marijuana to a $25 fine, after which an offender would have the charge expunged from their record. Since June 2010, Philadelphia has punished possession with a $200 fine and a three-hour class on drug abuse.
Philadelphia isn't the first large (sorry Boston) American metropolis to play with decriminalization. Chicago, which is significantly more populous, gave police the option in 2012 of giving those caught with 15 grams of pot or less $250 to $500 citations. But a 2014 study by Roosevelt University's Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy found that 93% of the misdemeanor pot possession charges in the city ended up involving an arrest. To this end, Philadelphia is the largest city in America to take arrests entirely out of the law enforcement equation regarding small amounts of marijuana.