The mayor of Philadelphia recently voiced public support for marijuana legalization, claiming doing so would save funds and resources used to enforce prohibition.
Philadelphia Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney suggested ending Pennsylvania’s marijuana prohibition last week after hearing about the extensive effort law enforcement made recently to raid a party where cannabis was being used. The police department had spent a couple months planning the raid at a warehouse party in Philadelphia’s East Frankford section.
“I don’t micromanage the police department and they didn’t tell us they were doing it,” Kenney said at a City Hall press conference. “Apparently they spent two months of planning. So I don’t know whether that could’ve been used for a better effort but still, how [the party organizers] set up in a very dangerous building, with the large amount [of marijuana] they had, called for attention, I guess. And that’s what happened.”
“I just think the amount of resources that were put into it may have been a little overkill,” he added. “The real solution to this is legalizing it in the state of Pennsylvania as they did in Colorado. We won’t have to use police resources in these kinds of activities and actions.”
Eight U.S. states have so far legalized recreational marijuana, and four already have operating programs. The states with adult use cannabis programs in place are not only saving money on not enforcing prohibition, but are generating over $1 billion from marijuana taxes, licenses and fees. States are using the additional tax revenue to fund school construction, law enforcement, and social services. A national survey conducted last August found that 65 percent of Americans believe the costs of enforcing cannabis laws are higher than the benefit provided by prohibition.
The Auditor General of Pennsylvania last month also voiced support for legalizing recreational marijuana, claiming that doing so could help the state address its budget deficits problem. Pennsylvania would bring in an estimated $200 in new revenue by legalizing marijuana.
Marijuana possession of up to 30 grams has been decriminalized in Philadelphia since 2014. In the raid, Philadelphia police confiscated 50 pounds of marijuana and about 100 pounds of THC-infused edibles, and arrested 19 men and three women. The event planners charged $50 to enter, and party goers were welcome to purchase and consume the cannabis products. About 175 people were released without charges.
“It’s clearly illegal to sell in those quantities,” Kenney said, but then added that he believed there could have been “another way” to deal with the situation, “as opposed to the amount of resources that were put into this, especially considering our ongoing relationship with that community.”
While recreational marijuana remains illegal in Philadelphia, the state did legalize marijuana for medical purposes last year. The state is currently reviewing applications from those seeking permits to grow and sell medical marijuana when the program becomes operational sometime in 2018.