Pot Decriminalization Has Saved Philadelphia $9 Million To Date

By McCarton Ackerman 11/01/16

Since 2014, pot possession arrests have decreased by over 80% in the City of Brotherly Love.

Pot Decriminalization Has Saved Philadelphia $9 Million To Date

The benefits of pot decriminalization in Philadelphia have gone beyond human life, with the City of Brotherly Love saving a reported $9 million since implementing the policy two years ago.

CounterPunch reported that the figures come from local analysts and are attributed to costs related to arrests and imprisonment for marijuana. Prior to decriminalization, city data shows that Philadelphia police arrested 8,580 juveniles and adults for simple marijuana possession from 2012-2013.

Once decriminalization was enacted in October 2014, only 1,500 people were arrested on the same charge from 2015 through the beginning of 2016.

“Decriminalization has been a resounding success for the municipal government and for cannabis consumers in Philadelphia,” said Chris Goldstein of Philly NORML.

Even high-ranking officials have benefitted from the policy. Earlier this month, Philadelphia GOP mayoral candidate Sam Katz received a mere $25 citation after a small amount of marijuana was discovered in his bag at Philadelphia Airport. He was still able to board a flight to Florida.

However, there are still stark racial divides in the marijuana possession arrests that still take place in Philadelphia. CounterPunch noted that approximately 7,077 of the 8,580 arrests between 2012-2013 involved African Americans—in addition to 1,200 of the 1,500 arrests in 2015. Despite the evidence that white and black people use marijuana at similar rates, police rarely make marijuana possession arrests in predominantly white neighborhoods.

Although 21 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, and five states and D.C. have legalized it for adult use, arrests for pot are still an issue for much of the country. A report released this month by the Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union noted that there were more arrests for marijuana possession in the U.S. than aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder combined. 

“Criminalizing drug use simply has not worked as a matter of practice,” stated the report. “Criminalizing drug possession has caused dramatic and unnecessary harms … both for individuals and for communities.”

Another report released earlier this month by the FBI showed that among the nearly 1.5 million “drug abuse” arrests made last year by law enforcement, 83.9% were for mere possession. Among the possession arrests, 38.6% were for marijuana. The Washington Post also pointed out there are over 1,500 arrests each day for marijuana possession.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.