It’s always sunny in Philadelphia, but now the city’s budget has a bit of extra cash to save for a rainy day. Thanks to marijuana decriminalization, no you can.
Marijuana arrests cost cities’ taxpayers millions of dollars every year. In 2014, the RAND corporation conducted a study in Vermont which showed the estimated cost of a marijuana arrest was about $1,266. That’s for each arrest.
Writing a ticket for consumption or possession of marijuana, on the other hand, costs roughly $20, according the study. Vermont decriminalized cannabis statewide in 2014.
Philadelphia decriminalized cannabis in 2014, and since then, the arrest rate for marijuana has plummeted. The way law enforcement handles cannabis infractions has also changed.
Back in 2013, before decriminalization was enacted, Philadelphia Police arrested 4,317 for marijuana possession. Totals were 3,754 adults and 563 juveniles.
At that time every single person caught with even a roach was made to endure handcuffs and a holding cell.
In 2015, however, police departments in Philadelphia issued 1,359 code violations for marijuana possession and public smoking. Last year was the first full 12 months of marijuana decriminalization. Arrests are down more than 80 percent. The data comes from the city’s Office of Administrative Review (OAR).
Fines are $25 for possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis and $100 for publicly smoking. The citations also do not generate any permanent criminal record.
Savings of Marijuana Decriminalization
Running those numbers through the conclusion of the RAND study in Vermont, Philadelphia saved about $4.4 million last year.
The new system has caught the ire of some citizens, who point to the roughly $18,000 in unpaid fines. The OAR data shows that less than half were paid so far. Of the $40,590 dues in fines, $12,885 had been paid when the report was issued in March.
Comparing those unpaid violations to the amount saved due to utilizing the new law enforcement procedure, they’re barely a dent in the $4.4 million the city likely saved.
It doesn’t seem, however, that the culture of policing has changed, despite the lower numbers.
There were still some arrests, 633 adults and 151 juveniles. As Philly.com previously reported, a striking racial disparity remains among those arrested for cannabis. Last year 518 of the adults and 112 of the juveniles hauled into holding cell for marijuana were African American.
The ACLU PA recently released a report showing that Philadelphia has not yet curtailed rampant stop-and-frisks. It is currently unknown how many of the marijuana tickets resulted from a stop-and-frisk encounter with law enforcement.
(Photo Credit: TheDailyChronic)