Pennsylvania State Policy Alert

Sent: April 9, 2010
From:
Topic: Marijuana and the Justice System

Title: 

Philadelphia "all but decriminalizes" possession of small amounts of marijuana!

Message: 

As you may have heard, the City of Brotherly Love has taken a large step towards living up to it’s moniker!

On Monday, April 5, Philly.com announced that District Attorney Seth Williams, who has been working in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, will usher in a new policy when it comes to possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under the new policy, which will take effect later this month, an arrest for possession of up to 30 grams will be treated as a "summary offense." This means that the offender may have to pay a fine, but they will not receive a criminal charge and the accompanying collateral consequences that come with such a record. 

DA Williams, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, and Justice Seamus P. McCaffery hope this sensible policy change will rid Philadelphia’s crowed court system of the up to 3,000 annual small possession cases that require the precious time of judges, prosecutors, and state-appointed defense attorneys — time better spent devoted to serious crimes. In addition to savings in staff time, the new approach is expected to generate "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for the courts through institution of a fine as opposed to jail time. The fine is expected to be $200 for first offense and $300 for all subsequent offenses.

Although the Philadelphia DA and members of the Supreme Court appear to recognize the wastefulness and fruitlessness associated with criminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, others are not so sensible. Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, has stated that his department will continue to arrest individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana regardless of whether the DA will charge them or not.

Although this sensible policy will only affect those living in Philadelphia, the positive effects that stem from the change will hopefully make those lawmakers hell-bent on punishing sensible adults for possession of a substance which is proven to be safer than alcohol approach the issue with fresh eyes and a willingness to listen to reason.

Thank you to all you supporters in the Keystone State. We continue to help push for sensible marijuana reform in Pennsylvania and across these great United States of America. We could not do it without you.