Latest from Kenney: Hotline for tales of Philly pot arrests

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by Jason Grant

Philadelphia Councilman Jim Kenney os pressing Mayor Nutter to sign into law a measure that would make possessing a small amount of pot punishable by only a $25 fine – with no arrest. File photo.

Pick up that cell phone, and make a call.

Tell how being arrested for a small bit of marijuana in Philadelphia has changed your life.

That’s the latest request from City Councilman James Kenney, as he continues to pound on Mayor Nutter to sign into law a measure that would make possessing a small amount of pot punishable by only a $25 fine – with no arrest.

Since Tuesday, Kenney’s staff have been handing out fliers promoting the at-large councilman’s new marijuana arrest hotline, which encourages callers to leave a detailed message and “if possible, please include information about the loss of job opportunities or schooling opportunities.”

Kenney’s staffers said they’ve been showing up at a muncipal courtroom and legal clinics to advertise the hotline.

So far, between Tuesday, when the line opened, and Thursday afternoon, 10 people have left messages, they said. Each would get a call back by Thursday’s end, said Chris Goy, Kenney’s policy director. He said all told of being arrested after Kenney’s bill was approved, on June 19.

The bill, which Council approved 13-to-3, calls for people caught with 30 grams or less of pot – about an ounce – to be issued a citation and fined. But the measure can’t become law before September unless the mayor signs. Nutter has said he’s weighing the criminal-justice implications of it.

Kenney, a Democrat who is considering a 2015 mayoral bid, has been pressing Nutter to sign the bill. In a letter made public Tuesday, he noted that 264 citizens had reportedly been arrested since Council approved the bill, and argued that “every day Mayor Nutter fails to act, more young people will be … jailed for a minimal offense.”

On Thursday, during an interview, Kenney said of his new hotline, “I want people… to talk about their situations. [And] I want the mayor, who seems to be a bit detached from the regular people on the street, to see what he’s allowing to happen.”

Mark McDonald, the mayor’s spokesman, responded briskly Thursday to the councilman’s increasing rhetoric:

“The first thing I would recommend is maybe he [Kenney] should urge people to not walk the streets carrying pot.”

He called Kenney’s bill “legislation a particular council member, who does not have a very extensive history of legislative victories, is attempting to promote as he tries to figure out if he has the resources and vision to run for mayor.”

The hotline number: 267-570-3726.

jgrant@phillynews.com

215-854-5506

Via Philly News

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