Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jul 2016
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2016 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Stephanie Farr


Activists Had Been Concerned That Citation Policy Would Go Up in 
Smoke During Convention.

Not wanting their protests during the Democratic National Convention 
to go up in smoke, the men who pushed for the decriminalization of 
marijuana in Philadelphia informally met with two of the city's 
police supervisors Friday to discuss how pot smokers and activists 
will be handled by authorities during the DNC next week.

"We have a lot of cannabis consumers coming in from out of town - and 
some of them are delegates," said Chris Goldstein, cochairman of the 
board of directors of Philly NORML (National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws).

Goldstein, the comedian N.A. Poe, and Marine veteran Mike Whiter met 
with SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel and Philadelphia Police 
Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan on Friday across from City Hall.

The activists have several marches scheduled next week to push for 
the federal legalization of marijuana, including one on Monday that 
begins at 11 a.m. at City Hall and ends at the Wells Fargo Center, 
site of the DNC. That march will feature a 51-foot inflatable joint, 
Goldstein said.

The activists and officers have been meeting to discuss issues 
surrounding marijuana protests since 2013, when Goldstein and Poe 
organized a number of "Smoke Down" protests in the city against 
federal marijuana prohibition.

One of Goldstein's main questions regarding policing during the DNC 
was what would happen to cannabis users if they were spotted smoking 
or possessing marijuana by law enforcement officers from outside 
Philadelphia brought in to assist.

Since Oct. 20, 2014, when marijuana decriminalization took effect in 
the city, people caught with less than an ounce of marijuana have 
been issued a $25 citation, and those caught smoking it in public get 
a $100 citation. No custodial arrest. No court date. Most important, 
no criminal record.

But Goldstein questioned whether authorities from other agencies, 
including state police, would ignore citations and instead make arrests.

Sullivan and Nestel said that if someone is caught with marijuana 
during the DNC by an officer from an outside agency - including 
federal police, the Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, 
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - that person would be handed over 
to a Philadelphia officer, who would issue the appropriate citation.

The meeting was brief, respectful, and funny. Poe told the officers 
that by Friday, he hopes to be able to say there were no marijuana 
arrests in Philadelphia during the DNC.

"We want that, too," Nestel said. Goldstein smiled. "Well, it's good 
you two aren't patrolling the Snoop Dogg concert then," he said, 
referring to the rapper's post-DNC concert at the Electric Factory on 
Thursday. That event, billed as a "unity party" for donors, is being 
funded by several super PACs.

Sullivan and Nestel have been the face of police at Philadelphia 
protests for years.

Nestel, who has a popular and prolific presence on Twitter, often 
tweets while policing protests about protecting protesters' First 
Amendment rights and preserving democracy.

Sullivan, who heads the SWAT, Homeland Security, and Civil Affairs 
units, usually is the department's representative when dealing with 
protesters, other police agencies, and the public at large events 
such as Pope Francis' visit last fall.

As Friday's meeting came to an end, both sides expressed appreciation 
for each other.

"You know, I'm genuinely grateful to all of you, because your 
protests are peaceful, cordial, and professional," Sullivan told 
them. Goldstein nodded. "We appreciate our relationship with you," he said.

The men shook hands, posed for a quick photo, and parted ways.

"I think it's going to be a good week," Sullivan said. "I really do."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom