Penalties for dope discussed at meeting

Dope was the top­ic at the Aug. 28 meet­ing of the North­east EPIC Stake­hold­ers in the Second Baptist Church of Frank­ford.

But Craig Thomas of the In­sti­tute for the De­vel­op­ment of Afric­an Amer­ic­an Youth didn’t talk about smoking it. He asked the small gath­er­ing to sup­port a City Coun­cil or­din­ance that al­lows po­lice to is­sue cita­tions for pos­ses­sion of small amounts of marijuana in­stead of mak­ing ar­rests.

Such ar­rests have long-last­ing ef­fects on young people, es­pe­cially young black and Latino people, he said. For a small amount of pot, so­ci­ety con­tin­ues to pun­ish, and “holds it against you for the rest of your life,” Thomas said.

He urged people to sup­port a bill sponsored by Coun­cil­man James Ken­ney (D-at large) that passed Coun­cil, 13-3, in June. 

The day be­fore the bill’s pas­sage in a party-line vote, the coun­cil­man said more than 80 per­cent of those who are ar­res­ted for pos­sess­ing small amounts of dope are black. “How do you jus­ti­fy the num­bers,” Ken­ney had asked in June.

Thomas said a marijuana ar­rest leads to a crim­in­al re­cord, which af­fects a per­son’s abil­ity to get an edu­ca­tion, to get in­to the mil­it­ary and to get jobs.

Thomas said May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter and Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey both op­pose Ken­ney’s bill.

In June, Nut­ter said he doubted the city could de­crim­in­al­ize what the state re­gards as a crime, and Ram­sey said he would ig­nore Ken­ney’s bill even if the may­or signs it. So far, he hasn’t. Ram­sey said in June that marijuana pos­ses­sion re­mains il­leg­al un­der state law and that state law su­per­sedes city or­din­ance.

That law will change, Thomas pre­dicted. Two states already have de­crim­in­al­ized marijuana pos­ses­sion, and he be­lieves Pennsylvania will, too.

“It’s go­ing to hap­pen,” he said. “We’re watch­ing it hap­pen.

There will be a news con­fer­ence in sup­port of Ken­ney’s bill (140377) at 10:30 a.m. on Wed­nes­day, Sept. 10, City Hall’s North Ap­ron. 

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