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Philly Decriminalizes Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana

by Christopher Zoukis

Since 2014, police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania have had the option of issuing a $25 fine in lieu of arresting a citizen found in possession of a small amount of marijuana. In 90 percent of all such cases, fines were issued. But still some Philadelphians went to jail for simple possession of marijuana.

As of mid-February 2018, that will no longer happen. Philadelphia’s District Attorney Larry Krasner instructed his assistant DAs to drop the 51 pending cases for simple possession, and not to pursue them in the future. In a news conference, he stressed that the policy applies only to possession of small amounts of pot. “We are going to tell them, yes, drop any cases that are simply marijuana possession,” Krasner said.

The new policy still allows police to issue a $25 ticket and does not apply to those who possess marijuana with the intent to distribute. Krasner said that the policy reflects his desire to direct law enforcement resources towards solving serious crimes. “I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do,” Krasner told NBC Philadelphia. “We could use those resources to solve homicides.”

Krasner’s announcement came on the same day that Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program began official sales. The new policy matches the more progressive approach to drug laws that other major cities around the country now employ.

“Larry dismissed dozens of cases involving small amounts of marijuana possession in order to free up law enforcement resources that should be tackling serious threats to public safety,” announced the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, via Twitter. 



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