In about a month, possessing small amounts of marijuana in Philadelphia will no longer be a crime within Philadelphia city limits. On Sept. 18, the city council in a 14-2 vote approved a bill that will decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of pot. Possession of a joint, or small amount of marijuana, will become a civil offense with a fine instead of a crime.

Currently in Pennsylvania, it’s a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine to possess 30 grams or less of marijuana for personal use. An ounce is slightly more than 28 grams. A conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession also carries a driver’s license suspension.

Under the bill passed by the Philadelphia City Council, possession of an ounce or less of pot is subject to a $25 civil fine. The bill sets the penalty for smoking pot in public at a $100 civil fine or performing several hours of community service. Anyone cited for the civil offense would have to go to court one time, but would not end up with a criminal record.

The bill decriminalizing marijuana was proposed by Councilman Jim Kenney, and the council previously approved a different version in June. However, that version was opposed by Mayor Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who vowed to continue with marijuana arrests even if the bill became law.

In the meantime, Kenney worked out a compromise with Nutter and Ramsey to get their agreement — and to make sure police officers follow the new policy and don’t continue with criminal arrests once decriminalization law goes into effect.

The new city ordinance goes into effect on Oct. 20, 2014, but it’s important to note that it only applies inside the City of Philadelphia and marijuana possession is still a crime anywhere else in Pennsylvania. If you’re suspected of marijuana possession anywhere outside the city’s boundaries, you could still be arrested and charged with a crime.

Thousands of people are arrested in Philadelphia every year for marijuana possession. Some of them are charged with additional crimes, but many are arrested only for having small amounts of marijuana on their person. When you’re convicted of marijuana possession, it can have a serious long-term effect on your life. A conviction means a permanent criminal record that can affect your chances at employment, or loss of financial aid if you’re a student. Decriminalizing marijuana possession means thousands of people each year won’t have their lives ruined, and the government won’t have to put as many resources into policing what is a relatively minor non-violent offense.

If you’ve been charged with marijuana possession, Philadelphia drug lawyer Michael Fienman can help. Call (215) 839-9529 for a free consultation today.

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