|Photo: Ron Tarver|
|Hundreds marched in Philadelphia on the afternoon of May 1, 2010 to support the legalization of marijuana.|
Philadelphia is finally starting to chill out about pot. Starting Tuesday, June 8, folks caught in the City of Brotherly Love with 30 grams or less of marijuana will probably see their charges downgraded to a summary offense.
What that means is that after you take a class and pay a $200 fine, any record of the arrest would be expunged.
That’s quite an improvement in a city that until now has been chiefly known for arresting blacks at a far higher rate than whites for marijuana offenses.
The new procedure will likely be followed in several thousand marijuana cases a year, according to Deputy District Attorney Ed McCann, reports Peter Mucha at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Not to harsh your mellow, but you still shouldn’t expect hands-off treatment by the cops.
|Tasha Jamerson, D.A.’s Office: “This is not decriminalization of marijuana.”|
”You’re still arrested, you’re still brought in, you’re still fingerprinted, you’re still given a prelim,” said Tasha Jamerson, a former TV reporter who is now working with the District Attorney’s Office.
“This is not decriminalization of marijuana,” Jamerson said.
Hey Tasha, you seem just a little too thrilled thinking of all the hassles you can still inflict upon hapless stoners, babe.
Only at the preliminary arraignment will you notice any difference. That is where many cases will be “diverted” from misdemeanor charges to summary offenses, according to McCann — but that won’t happen automatically.
If suspects in pot possession cases are charged with attempting to sell, or are caught during serious crimes, or have criminal records, leniency will likely be withheld, which means you’ll be just as screwed as you ever were.
“We’re talking about this offense being a stand-alone offense, or this being the most serious charge,” said McCann of cases which qualify for leniency diversions.
“It should be a tremendous savings to the court system,” McCann said, by reducing police court testimony, the cost of public defenders, and documentation.
The change in policy was announced in April by new District Attorney Seth Williams, but is just now taking effect.
Even this modest relaxation of marijuana enforcement didn’t come without its spittle-flecked opponents, notably the new D.A.’s predecessor, Lynne M. Abraham.
“‘Welcome To Philadelphia, Light Up A Joint’ may just be our new slogan,” Abraham, who believes pot smokers should be thrown in jail, said derisively of the new policy.
“Local gangs and marijuana growers everywhere are positively overjoyed,” Abraham said sarcastically.
McCann, though, sees the move as prudent and logical.
“It’s a reasonable response to a large number of cases that don’t have to be… clogging up the court system,” McCann said.