When Philly pot law is relaxed, Ramsey vows police will ticket — not arrest — offenders

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(Photo via ShutterStock)

Pot could be decriminalized in Philadelphia as soon as Oct. 20.

Under legislation expected to be passed by City Council and signed by Mayor Michael Nutter in coming weeks, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana would be punishable by a $25 ticket.

How have similar laws worked in other cities?

Kathleen Kane-Willis, director of the Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University, looked at what happened when Chicago police officers were given the option of issuing tickets to those caught with small amounts of weed instead of making arrests. As in Pennsylvania, possession remains a criminal offense in the state of Illinois.

“We found that actually the ticket hadn’t been used very much. It had been used only in 7 percent of the cases,” she said. “Over 90 percent of people were still arrested for marijuana use.”

Kane-Willis said the Chicago Police Department failed to incentivize officers to write tickets.

“I don’t know that there was a way that police officers were getting credit for writing the tickets instead of making the arrest,” she said. “So if arrests are used in promotions or [other] decisions, there needs to be an incentive for the police to use the new thing.”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he plans to enforce the letter and the spirit of the soon-to-be law. He said police will be trained to issue tickets to those caught with small amounts of pot.

There will only be a handful of exceptions, according to the city’s top cop, such as when an offender is wanted for another crime.

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