“Legalize it, don’t criticize it,” are the opening lyrics from former Wailer and solo reggae singer Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It.” I first heard this song in 1983, in the midst of Nancy Reagan waging her “war on drugs.” Who would have thought that 30-plus years later, I would be practicing law as a family lawyer and the legalization of cannabis would be a reality?
In September 2014, former city council member Jim Kenney, now Philadelphia’s Democratic mayoral candidate, sponsored the marijuana decriminalization bill, which was overwhelmingly approved with a 13-3 vote and signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter in October 2014. The new law dismantled mandatory custodial arrests for possession of pot, in favor of simple fines: $25 for possession of less than 30 grams and $100 or nine hours of community service for smoking in public. The City of Brotherly Love, with a population of 1.5 million residents and growing, is now the largest U.S. city to decriminalize marijuana.
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