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.
For more information, visit www.idaay.org ••