Philadelphia's District Attorney says his office will no longer prosecute people for having small amounts of marijuana. Now Philly residents are reacting.(Published Monday, Aug. 6, 2018)
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will no longer charge cases related to buying small amounts of cannabis for personal consumption, according to a memo circulated internally Monday and obtained exclusively by NBC10.
Nearly 300 such cases have already been declined by the office since January, according to the memo.
Small quantities of marijuana is defined as anything under 30 grams or roughly an ounce. (Here's a visual guide of varying amounts of pot created by Leafly, a cannabis trade publication.)
The office will still pursue intent to distribute cases, according to prosecutors.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner ran on a campaign promise to, among other things, end mass incarceration. Monday’s memo marks another step toward that promise, spokesman Ben Waxman said.
“This was seen as something that was a critical component of … focusing on serious cases that pose a threat to public safety,” Waxman said. “The hope is that people will not needlessly have interactions with the criminal justice system."
Cannabis remains a Schedule 1 substance — along with heroin and LSD — at the federal level. Philadelphia decriminalized cannabis in 2014 and Pennsylvania debuted its medical marijuana program in 2017. An ACLU report issued last year indicated that despite steps toward legalization, communities of color are still disproportionately targeted by law enforcement for drug possession arrests.
Krasner’s approach builds on four-year-old rules implemented by Mayor Michael Nutter and the previous District Attorney, Seth Williams. Initially introduced by current Mayor Jim Kenney when he was a city councilman, they gave Philadelphia police the power to issue citations for marijuana possession. That essentially made pot possession punishable by a fine.
“We’re getting to the six month mark of the [Krasner] administration and we’ve made some public promises of how we’re going to handle certain cases,” Waxman said.