Everyone thinks of 4/20 as the “marijuana holiday” but in Philadelphia, there is another date that stands out on the marijuana calendar: October 20, 2014. Referred to as 10/20, it’s a historic day in Philadelphia history for local weed-heads – or, as we now know them in a world where marijuana use is no longer socially stigmatized, cannabis consumers – when weed was decriminalized including possession of small amounts.
“I just f—ing smoked weed in Philly and got a ticket. That’s awesome,” rejoiced marijuana activist Mike Whiter on Oct. 20, 2014, as he ceremonially got the first marijuana citation under the newly decriminalized statute from a Philly police officer in Philly City Hall’s Courtyard, in an event exclusively covered by Metro.
Whiter, a former U.S. Marine and outspoken advocate for legal marijuana, both as a recreational drug and as a medical treatment for issues such as PTSD, was the first Philadelphian to get a $100 ticket for public marijuana consumption on that day.
Former Marine and pot activist Mike Whiter, the first person to be cited under Philly’s new marijuana statute, holds up his ticket proudly on Oct. 20, 2014. (Charles Mostoller)
This year, the 4th anniversary of marijuana decriminalization will be celebrated at Philadelphia City Hall, beginning at 4:20 p.m., with an hour-long pop up weed garden.
Marijuana activist and organizer of the event Chris Goldstein noted that marijuana arrests have plummeted from 6,000 a year before decriminalization to below 600, keeping thousands out of jail and saving Philadelphia police millions of dollars in man-hours – estimated by Goldstein around $16 million in savings.
“It’s time for Philadelphia to begin charting the path forward for full legalization,” Goldstein said in a statement. “There are hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers here in Philly. It’s time to begin offering safe marijuana products at a low price, and allowing home cultivation.”
Arrest numbers are expected to drop even lower after Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner issued a new policy to not prosecute any marijuana-related crimes earlier this year. At least 293 prosecutions were declined by his office from January to August.
Cannabis consumers enjoy some grass while standing on the grass at Eakins Oval on Oct. 20, 2016. (Charles Mostoller)
10/20: Philadelphia’s Pop Up Weed Garden Holiday
In the years since decriminalization, 10/20 has become a local marijuana holiday.
In 2016, 10/20 was celebrated with a Pop Up Weed Garden on the Oval across the street from the Art Museum, where a massive cloud of marijuana smoke hovered over dozens of cannabis consumers.
Other pop-up weed gardens have been held at other times and locations, like the Jan. 20, 2016 event in Rittenhouse Square to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Under the decriminalization statute signed by Mayor Nutter in October 2014, marijuana possession in public of up to 30 grams is punishable by a $25 fine, and smoking in public can lead to a $100 fine.
Following the Philadelphia change, Goldstein noted other Pennsylvania cities downgraded enforcement of marijuana usage and possession, including Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, Bethlehem, Allentown, Erie, State College, and Lancaster. Medical marijuana was legalized statewide in April 2016. And the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee recently approved HB928 to consider decriminalizing public use and possession statewide.
And with state like Massachusetts and Delaware moving to legalize recreational use, advocates hope that Pennsylvania proposals to fully legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth, currently led by Rep. Jake Wheatley, will be more likely to advance.
If you go:
The 2018 Philadelphia Pop Up Weed Garden will be held beginning at 4:20 p.m. at City Hall, running until 5:30 p.m., on Oct. 20, 2018. The event is free and open to the public.