Last week the City of Philadelphia voted to decriminalize marijuana. The new decriminalization law would fine people $25 who are found with personal amounts of marijuana, rather than arresting them and charging them with crimes. Apparently the Philadelphia Police Commissioner didn’t get the news. Per High Times:
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said Friday, “I am not in favor at all of any form of [marijuana] legalization.” So Ramsey’s police will just ignore the decriminalization. “We still have to treat [marijuana possession] as a misdemeanor until we are told otherwise by state law. … State law trumps city ordinances.”
The senior attorney for the city, Martha Johnston, seems to think the police commissioner is wrong. In a memo addressing the conflict between city and state law, she wrote “the balance of factors weighs in favor of a conclusion that [the bill] is not pre-empted by the state Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.”
I always get upset when law enforcement, city officials, and/or local politicians try to hide behind laws that they are not in charge of enforcing. Usually it’s city or state officials or law enforcement trying to hide behind federal law, but in this case it’s city police trying to hide behind state law. Philadelphia police are supposed to work for the City of Philadelphia, not the State of Pennsylvania.
That’s not to say they don’t enforce state laws too, because they do, but not when there is a city law on the books that is different than state law. I guarantee if/when the State of Pennsylvania legalizes marijuana, this same police commissioner will try to play the ‘but it is still illegal under federal law’ card. Someone needs to explain to the Philadelphia Police Commissioner what ‘jurisdiction’ means.