Philadelphia: Marijuana arrests remain high

I am your neighbor and I smoke pot

"I am your neighbor and I smoke pot" sign at PhillyNORML march 2010

Each year PhillyNORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, looks at the marijuana arrest data for the city. The information comes directly from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System.

Here are the numbers for 2009, the most recent data available:

There were 6, 402 marijuana related arrests by Philadelphia City Police in 2009. These were stand-alone violations not in conjunction with other crime.

4, 656 were adults arrested for simple possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana.

Of the adults arrested for simple marijuana possession more than 75% were 18-29 years old (3,129) and 91% were men (4,251).

The trend of white women being the group who have the least amount of annual possession arrests was true again with just 104 all year; less than 10 per month.

Black women were three times more likely to be arrested than white women, with 300 women taken into custody in 2009 for marijuana possession less than 30 grams.

Overall, black residents were four times more likely to arrested for pot than white residents. For all marijuana violations, African Americans comprised 80% of those arrested in Philadelphia, a total of 5,158 adults.

To put this into perspective there were 10,661 African American residents arrested in all of Pennsylvania for marijuana violations during 2009. Thus, Philadelphia city police are performing about half of the annual statewide arrests of black people for marijuana.

Earlier this year District Attorney Seth Williams created a new diversion court for minor marijuana offenses. Instead of criminal prosecution offenders now pay a $200 fine.

While this alleviated the court burden of marijuana violations it does not address the arrests.

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