Philadelphia may de-criminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana…

April 13, 2010

There is an effort afoot in Philadelphia to reduce the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The effort is being led by Philadelphia's new District Attorney, Seth Williams. This is one way, according to Williams, to ease the crowding of Philadelphia courts.

In late April 2010, a policy will be put into effect in which those in possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana with be charged with only a summary offense. This means that those individuals charged with minor possession may be required to pay a fine, but they will not gain a criminal record. The fines will most likely be set at $200 for first offenses and $300 for subsequent offenses, though these figures have not yet been formalized.

As possession of marijuana remains illegal, those charged with possession for personal use will continue to be arrested. Their cases, however, will be heard in summary court and not criminal court.

The idea behind stepping-down the charge of possession of marijuana from misdemeanor to summary offense is to clear the nearly 3,000 yearly cases dealing with limited marijuana possession from the court dockets. By keeping the small-time offenses to a minimum, Philadelphia's courts are freed up to concentrate on more serious cases such as big-time drug traffickers, as opposed to recreational users.

The new Philadelphia District Attorney Williams is actually working with two of Pennsylvania's Supreme Court justices, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery, on this matter and a number of other reforms to Philadelphia's criminal justice system.

Perhaps Philadelphia's precedents will encourage a state-wide shift in criminal justice procedures. Do you think de-criminalizing marijuana possession is a good idea?

5 comments:

Anonymous,  April 13, 2010 at 7:09 PM  

I believe it's an excellent idea. Decriminalization of marijuana (under 30grams) will free up the police, the courts, the jails, and taxpayers.

Rosie O April 14, 2010 at 8:54 AM  

Your use of the word "de-criminalize" in this context is incorrect. To de-criminalize something means to change it from a criminal act to a non-criminal or legal act. Doing so requires action by the state legislature, which made marijuana possession a crime in the first place. Neither Philadelphia nor its DA can de-criminalize marijuana. But the ability to charge crimes is the responsibility of the DA's office, so what Mr. Williams is trying to do is change the way the crime is charged. You, as a lawyer, should know this, and it is your responsibility when posting articles on the web to use proper terminology, and not that which is popular or likely to get you more hits.

sailedui April 14, 2010 at 9:36 AM  

Rosie O,
You are very outspoken. In Pennsylvania possession of a small amount of marijuana is a crime, specifically a misdemeanor. My understanding is that the Philadelphia DA wants to treat this charge as a summary offense. I think this is a good idea. Summary offenses in Pennsylvania are generally not considered crimes and in my experience, do not show up on criminal records.

Anonymous,  April 18, 2010 at 2:48 PM  

ISNT POSSESSION OF POT A FEDERAL CRIME AS WELL?, ..... I DONT SEE HOW A LOCAL STATE CAN OVER RIDE FEDERAL LAW, LET ALONE STATE LAW, ..

BUT WE KNOW IT TO BE TRUE, ...

NYC , FOR YEARS HAS MADE POSSESSION OF A SMALL AMOUNT OF POT, ONLY A FINE, FOR DECADES THIS HAS BEEN THE CASE,...


THAT BEING SAID, .....
POT IS AN EXTREMELEY POWERFUL DRUG, IT IS NOT ONLY A PAIN KILLER, ANALGESIC, .. IT IS A PSYCHEDELIC.

ONLY A FEW PUFFS OGF A MATIHJUANS CIGARTETTE, CAN CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ON ANYTHING, CHANGE ONES PERSPECTIVE ON ANYTHING, ... AND REDUCE PAIN ,...

IT SHOULD BE USED FOR MEDICAL PEOPLKE DYING OF CANCER, MS, MD, . AIDS, ....... STUFF LIKE THJAT, ..... SEVERELY CRIPPLED, ...
PSARALYZED. ,, STUFF LIKE THAT,


30 GRAMS OF POT, TO POSSESS IS EXCESSIVE, ....... HALF A JOINT IS POWRFUL, ...

I THINK IT IS MORE POWERFUL THAN CRACK, METH, ,HEROINE,....OXY, DEMEROL, ... STUFF LIKE THAT, ....

IT GOES STRAIGHT TOI THGE BRAIN, AND STAYS WITH YOU, HOURS AND HGOURSM, JUST A FEW PUFFS, A FEW CENTS WORTH OF IT, ...

FOR THE MONEY, IT IS BY FAR THE MOST POWERFUL DRUG OUT THERE,...

THIS IS A FACT, AND I DONT CARE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME, ...

IF IT HAS TO BE DE CRIMINLIZED , SO BE IT, ....

THE WHOLE NATION IS GOING TO HELL IN A HAND BASKET ANYWAY,....

I DONT LIKE THE INITIATIVE, BUT I UNDERSTAND IT, ....

I THINK THAT THE MORALITY OF THE NATION IS FAR GONE, DIMINISHED, .. AND THIS IS JUST ANOTHER SIGN WE ARE GOING DOWN HILL.

MAKE POT LEGAL FOR THE SICK, ... NOT FOR REGULAR PEOPLE.

IF THE LAW IS UNFORCEABLE, LETS HAVE THE LOCAL POLICE DO THEIR JOBS, ......

STAY ON KNOWN POT HEADS, YOULL GET THEM FOR DUI OR OTHER THINGS, IN TIME, ...

33 GRTMS, ARE YOU KIDDING ME, THAT COULD KEEP A PERSON HIGH FOR A YEAR...


THATS INSANE, ....

AND IS IT UNLIMITED, ...... YOU CAN KEEP GETTING CAUGHT, PAY 200, AND NEVER HAVE A CRIMINAL CHARGE, ....... WHAT THE HECK,...

ITS THE MOST STUPID USE OF THE LAW I EVER HEARD OF.

JIM

Anonymous,  April 23, 2010 at 10:46 AM  

I have some additional thought i would like to put down.

Mr, Saile,.... you did not adress the person posting regarding "decriminalzation" technically.

I guess that is OK. We also know form a prevoius article you posted, that you are friends with the Philly DA. We can somehow discern that, I think.

However,.... If a criminal arrest is made,... whether or not a summary arrest, it it stil a criminal arrest,... and would show up on criminal records, and I know the prosecuotr in OPhilly or DA, has no say on whtat the State does in this regard.

In NJ first offense, small drug charges, can go away with a conditional guilty plea,. a year with no arrests, followed by an expungement.

i thijnk, especilly for teenagers, the condition of this should be a probationary period, where they see a probation officer.

it is hard to believe, on the other hand, that philly, has been treating it a different way , for so many years,.. as a crime, full crime, trial by jury, the works, insterad of a summary offense.

If Philly has held out this long,,,, why change now?????

What has changed?

the economy?

take NYC, you go to NYC, you walk through Washington Square Park, in the Village, and you buy 5 dollars worth of pot from a street dealer,....... this isnt a crime ,. is it? it has been a fine, if th ebeat cop, weanted to make it a fine for you,... or maybe even let it go.

They'll nab the buyers, and no go afte rthe dealers.

You see whatr i'm saying???

you can have dalers on the street , who are good at their business, with a bag of loose 28 grams of pot, and pinch put 5-10 dollars worth and seel it,.... and if they get nabbed, its not dealing, its a summary offense,? right?

i don t know,,...

I kno whtat pot is extrmemely powerful drug, and should be treated as such.

here is on eof my off the wall thoughts,..... make any posession of pot an offense that rewquires a 10,000 doilllar fine, and if people under 18 years old get it, their parents have to pay.

2nd or more offenses are jail.
, plus 25,000 doillar fine,..included,...

make that the law,.. see how fast pot gets off the streets, out of schols, out of teenagers basements,..off the streets,...
out of parties,..out of life,....

youy stop the pot in its tracks, by increasing the penalty to insane proportions,....

no?

thats what the ;law should be....

and if people think pot isnt dangerous, and shoul dbe legalized,.. wel then do that then,,.. i dont care which way they go,.. but to play the game of summary offense is assinine, in my opinion,..

the legicslature has to chime in here,

even sue the State for not following the law,


jim

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