Pro-pot group launches e-mail campaign targeting Nutter

Posted: July 27, 2014

PhillyNORML says it has started an e-mail campaign that is flooding Mayor Nutter's inbox with messages supporting a City Council-passed marijuana bill.

The campaign aims to ratchet up the pressure on 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.

And it's happening as increasing rhetoric over the bill flies at the mayor: Earlier this week, City Councilman James F. Kenney sent a letter to Nutter saying 264 citizens had reportedly been arrested since Council approved the bill on June 19, and arguing that "every day Mayor Nutter fails to act, more young people will be ... jailed for a minimal offense."

According to Chris Goldstein, cochair of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, his group's e-mail push began Tuesday. So far, he said, supporters of the decriminalization measure have sent 390 e-mails to the mayor and his chief aide.

More e-mails are expected, Goldstein said. The campaign, being advertised via NORML's social-media outlets and its Pennsylvania e-mail alert list, began Tuesday.

Those wishing to write to the mayor use a Web page set up by NORML.

"We want Mayor Nutter and Chief of Staff [Everett] Gillison to know how many people feel strongly that this issue needs to move forward in Philadelphia," Goldstein said Friday in an interview. "And we want them to know it wasn't just a singular effort by the bill's sponsor in Council - it was a supermajority of the City Council and many residents and people who frequently spend time in Philly who want to see this policy get implemented."

The marijuana bill, passed by a 13-3 Council vote, calls for people caught with up to 30 grams of pot - about an ounce - to be issued a citation and fined. But it can't become law before September unless the mayor signs. Nutter has said he's weighing the criminal-justice implications of it.

In response to PhillyNORML's campaign, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter said Friday in an e-mail, "When the bill was passed, the administration said it would spend the summer doing a significant amount of work looking at how we could move forward with the legislation, including what it would mean and how it would be coordinated among different law enforcement agencies. The legislation must be acted upon no later than September, when City Council returns, so that is the goal."

In addition to telling the mayor to quickly approve the bill, NORML's e-mail campaign asks him to issue an executive order - if the bill is made law - that would force Philadelphia police to use the civil-fine penalty, and not just arrest people for small-amount possession anyway, according to Goldstein.

In June, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, citing state law, said that even if the measure became city law, his officers would continue to treat any amount of marijuana possession as a misdemeanor crime.

Kenney, the bill's sponsor, who is weighing a 2015 mayoral bid, also started a hotline on Tuesday for people arrested to call and tell their stories.

jgrant@phillynews.com

215-854-5506

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