Philly420: Pittsburgh mayor quietly signs bill to decriminalize marijuana

Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto quietly signed a marijuana decriminalization bill into law just before Christmas, Dec. 22, 2015.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto quietly signed into law a new ordinance to decriminalize marijuana possession in the Iron City on Dec. 22, Philly420 has learned.

The provision, passed by Pittsburgh City Council 7-2,  closely follows what Philadelphia already has in place. 

A police officer can still perform an arrest under the state's criminal misdemeanor code or issue a civil citation with a fine of $25 to $100. 

The new ordinance applies to possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana and less than 8 grams of hashish or hash oil.

Timothy McNulty, Peduto's spokesman, confirmed today that the bill had been signed. McNulty said that the mayor hopes to see the same reduction in arrests that Philly has experienced.

The Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report shows that arrests of adults for marijuana possession in Philly are down about 80 percent. 

Sonya Toler, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Police, said today that the department is reviewing the legislation.

There is no firm date on when the policy will be fully implemented.

Philadelphia police took several months to print the new citations and make changes in the computer system to give officers the correct tools.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay and District Attorney Zappala seem to be on board with the new law.

NextPittsburgh published an excerpt from a letter from Zappala to McLay when the measure was being considered that said in part: "if the Mayor and City Council, after discussion with the residents of our city through public hearings would adopt the type of legislation used in Philadelphia, my office would work with you to try to accomplish what the Mayor and City Council would like to see done.”

In 2014, 884 adults and 69 juveniles arrested in Pittsburgh for marijuana possession.

Of those arrested,  638 of the adults and 59 of the juveniles were black. 

Young adults endured the heaviest burden. Those age 18 to 29-years-old comprised 67 percent of marijuana possession arrests.

If Pittsburgh follows Philly with the same drop in arrest rates the city could save almost $1 million a year of the new policy.

Patrick Nightingale, executive director of PittsburghNORML who lobbied for the shift told Philly420, "We are very happy that the two largest cities in the Commonwealth have embraced cannabis reform." 

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