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Nutter Lashes Out at City Council Plan to Decriminalize Marijuana

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Mayor Nutter is angrily criticizing City Council's effort to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, saying the city has far more serious issues that need attention.

City Council approved the pot decriminalization bill in June, just before adjourning for the summer, and that gives Mayor Nutter until September 11th to decide whether he'll sign the measure or veto it.

Nutter says more study is needed and he has not yet made a decision, but he lashed out this morning at Council's focus on the issue.

"People in this city ... come up to me all the time asking about jobs, asking about housing, or asking about their children's education, or can we provide more services.  No one has come up to me asking, 'Can you make it easier for me to stand on a street corner in front of some grandma's house and smoke my joint?'  So let's be realistic here."

And Nutter angrily rejected claims by Councilman Jim Kenney -- the bill's sponsor -- that pot arrests unfairly target black men.

"It is an insult to the African-American community that all of this discussion and debate is revolving around whether or not black guys can smoke as much joint or weed as white guys," Nutter said.  "That is a bogus issue.  It is an insult to the community.  Black people are fighting for the same things that white folks want.  They want safe neighborhoods, they want a job, they want their kids to get a great education.  They want to be able to buy a house and have a quality of life and not have six knuckleheads outside their house smoking, having a good time, and destroying the quality of life in those neighborhoods.  Black people want that.  White people want that.  Purple people want that, too."

Kenney, a frequent Nutter critic and a potential mayoral candidate, has called on Nutter to sign the bill now in order to spare police the time and cost of summertime pot arrests.

The mayor says that even with his signature, implementation would be delayed until the end of summer:

"The bill says, 'This ordinance shall go into effect in three months.'  If I had signed it on June 19th, it would not have been in effect until September 19th, meaning that the entire process that we currently use would still be in effect this summer.  And the councilman knows that."

Kenney estimates that the new pot policy could save the police department and the courts $4 million per year.  The measure makes possession of about an ounce of pot punishable by only a $25 fine, with the matter never entering the court system.

It passed on June 16th by a 13-3 vote, straight along party lines.

Should Nutter veto the bill, Kenney would have more than enough votes to override.


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