While few people were looking, Philadelphia implemented a great new drug policy.

Last year, Philadelphia decided to start punishing the possession of under 30 grams of pot with a $25 ticket instead of an arrest.

Aw man! Come on, man. Aw man! Photo via iStock.


And there was much rejoicing.

This is how Philly celebrates. GIF from "Rocky"/United Artists.

But also, some questions. Particularly, would curbing arrests spur a rampant epidemic of victorious pot smokers flouting the law and taking their hobby onto the streets?

Would overburdened cops be unable to keep up with the incredible demand for tickets? Would the city descend into a drug-fueled chaos, its government buildings set ablaze, its streets patrolled by roving bands of weed-crazed cannibals?

Philadelphia, one possible outcome. GIF from "Mad Max: Fury Road"/Warner Bros.

Nope. So far, so good.

...according to Tricia L. Nadolny in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Not only are marijuana arrests way down, total run-ins between marijuana users and the law have dipped significantly.

"In the year since the law took effect, arrests have fallen nearly 75 percent.

But the police aren't making up for the drop by doling out tickets. Arrests and citations combined are still 42 percent below the total arrests made by the department in the same time last year, which some say signals a waning interest from the police in penalizing use of the drug."

Yup. Arrests are down. Tickets are down. The city is still standing. And all is well.

The Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, whose name is a bit of an over-promise, if you ask me. Photo by Tim Kiser/Wikimedia Commons.

Philadelphia appears to be another data point in a larger, growing trend of cities successfully lowering the temperature on the War on Drugs.

New York City began curbing arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana back in November 2014. Earlier this year, Gloucester, Massachusetts, launched a groundbreaking program that funnels addicted people into treatment, rather than prison — and the results are looking promising.

...which is good news, as the United States has the largest prison population in the world...

Photo by Dieter_G/Pixabay.

...and drug arrests have a lot to do with that. In 2012, drug crimes were the single highest arrest category in the United States, according to the FBI. Arresting fewer nonviolent drug users equals fewer people who really don't need to be in prison locked up.

It's also potentially good news for people of color, who routinely bear the burden of law enforcement's focus on petty crime.

In a study of traffic stops by 14 different police departments across four states, a blockbuster New York Times report from October 2015 found that black motorists were 1.5 to 5.2 times more likely to be searched for contraband during traffic stops — including drugs — than white motorists and were less likely to actually have it in all but one case.

Limiting marijuana arrests won't solve the problem, but turning police focus toward legit crime could help educe the number of such stops and prevent them from escalating.

There's still a long way to go, but Philadelphia deserves a lot of credit for taking a small, positive step forward.

...and my reaction to it can best be summed up in one word:

Photo by vic15/Flickr.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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The fasting period of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world is a both an individual and communal observance. For the individual, it's a time to grow closer to God through sacrifice and detachment from physical desires. For the community, it's a time to gather in joy and fellowship at sunset, breaking bread together after abstaining from food and drink since sunrise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited group gatherings in many countries, putting a damper on the communal part of Ramadan. But for one community in Barcelona, Spain, a different faith has stepped up to make the after sunset meal, known as Iftar, as safe as possible for the Muslim community.

According to Reuters, Father Peio Sanchez, Santa Anna's rector, has opened the doors of the Catholic church's open-air cloisters to local Muslims to use for breaking the Ramadan fast. He sees the different faiths coming together as a symbol of civic coexistence.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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