Philly Decriminalizes Small Possession of Pot

By Kamika Dunlap on April 07, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Philadelphia's new marijuana policy will take effect next month and decriminalizes the small possession of pot for personal use.

The goal of the new policy is to sweep about 3,000 small-time marijuana cases annually out of the main court system in an effort to unclog Philadelphia's crowded court dockets, reports. The policy decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana possession.

The policy shift will allow prosecutors to charge such cases for people with arrested with up to 30 grams (slightly more than an ounce) of the drug as summary offenses rather than as misdemeanors. As a result they may have to pay a fine but face no risk of a criminal record.

The fines could range from $200 for minor drug possession and first-time offenders and $300 for others. The fines could generate significant revenue for the Philadelphia courts.

Many marijuana consumers in Philadelphia welcome the new approach. Members of the city's defense bar also endorsed the new marijuana-prosecution policy.

Crushing state budget deficits gave advocates in California, Washington, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York and elsewhere an opening to pitch marijuana as a new source of tax revenue.

Many involved in the criminal justice system say it will free up a lot of time in the courtroom. The new policy clears about 5 percent of the overall caseload in criminal court.

Other places around the country including Massachusetts have taken a softer stance on marijuana possession.

In addition, Denver voters approved an ordinance in 2005 legalizing possession of less than an ounce, or 28 grams. San Francisco passed a similar law in 2006.

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