Michael Whiter has a plan: On Oct. 20, the day Philadelphia officially becomes the largest American city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, he wants to receive the first-ever citation.
Whiter, a pot enthusiast who helped organize the Philly Smokedown Prohibition at Independence Mall on April 20, said he's been in negotiations with Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan to orchestrate a peaceful exchange.
"I'm doing it either way," Whiter said. "If they like it or not, I'm going to be at City Hall smoking a joint on the 20th."
Whiter was in attendance Wednesday as Mayor Michael Nutter signed the bill into law. Under the new law, police won't criminally charge anyone in possession, or using, up to 30 grams of marijuana. They instead will be issued a fine.
"I've been fighting for two years — hard — to get marijuana legalized and this is a huge step," Whiter said. "So being the first ticket, it's pretty symbolic."
Will Sullivan take part? "Negative," he said.
But knowing Whiter will spark up regardless, Sullivan added: "We will cite him in a cooperative manner."
Whiter, a former Marine who twice served in combat zones, visited the VA (Veterans Administration) when he returned. Doctors, he said, prescribed several different medications for PTSD and chronic pain.
"And I was a zombie for a good six years probably, I took so many," he said.
One night he watched a marijuana study and decided to give pot a try. "I haven't taken a pill in two years," he said.
"I was suicidal for a while (before he changed to pot)," Whiter added. "I can literally say it saved my life."
N.A. Poe, a local comedian and pro-marijuana advocate, standing with Whiter feet from where Nutter signed the bill into law, said his fellow advocate is just looking for acceptance.
"We would like for police to be able to shake hands after something like this happens," he said. "It's good for all of us."
The new rules
The use and possession of any amount of marijuana remains illegal.However, if found in possession of 30 grams or fewer, a smoker will face a $25 fine. For public use, the fine is $100, or up to nine months of community service.
The marijuana will be confiscated.
Nutter warns about dangers of pot
In addition to signing the decriminalization bill, Nutter announced an accompanying campaign to stress the dangers of the drug.
The campaign includes palm-sized cards and public announcements reminding residents that the drug remains illegal. His administration will also offer information for those seeking addiction or dependence treatment.
Additionally, Community Legal Services, which provides legal support to impoverished and lower-income citizens, will also receive an extra $100,000. The money will help residents expunge their criminal records.
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