Philadelphia Officials Move to Decriminalize Marijuana

Apr 05, 2010 , , , , , ,

Encouraging news from the City of Brotherly Love today: Philadelphia’s new district attorney and members of the state Supreme Court are taking steps to remove criminal penalties for people arrested with up to 30 grams (or a little more than an ounce) of marijuana. Under the new approach, those caught with marijuana would face a possible fine, but receive no criminal conviction.

“The goal,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “is to sweep about 3,000 small-time marijuana cases annually out of the main court system, freeing prosecutors and judges to devote time to more serious crimes. The diverted cases amount to about 5 percent of the caseload in criminal court.”

But in a frustrating case of two steps forward, one step back, a Philly police spokesman tells the paper, “We’re not going to stop locking people up … our officers are trained to do that. Whether or not they make it through the charging process, that’s up to the D.A. We can’t control that. Until they legalize it, we’re not going to stop.”

What a nuanced view.

Maybe someone should tell that guy how police in Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, and more than a dozen other cities have followed orders to make marijuana a “lowest law enforcement priority” with few complications or adverse consequences. Except, you know, for police having to focus their efforts on more serious crimes.

In any case, decriminalizing marijuana in Philadelphia—the sixth most populous city in the United States—would be a major boon for marijuana policy reform efforts in cities all across the country. Let’s hope it happens.

44 responses to “Philadelphia Officials Move to Decriminalize Marijuana”

  1. yeah, someone needs to tell these people in the city council about this police officer. The DA may be the ones to drop charges, but the City is trying to “weed” this step out along with the other shit about marijuana prosecution. BUT THE ASSHOLE COP is just saying that it dont matter. What a piece of shit. What is this cops name? I want to email him. I want his family to get cancer and he has to watch them die in pain. Eye for an Eye. Tooth for a tooth.

  2. @Ben: Hey I’m hoping for the Cali bill as much as you are, but nothing is wasted. This is a battle for hearts and minds, and every little bit counts. The world doesn’t end with the 2010 California elections.

    What I’m wondering is how long these cops are going to be allowed to simply ignore the priorities set by the Philadelphia DA. Don’t prosecutors and cops need to be on the same page regarding what constitutes a crime and what does not? Seems like a messy political situation to me.

    Anyway, cool news. I just got back from a weekend in Philly.

  3. Decrim is a major step forward but they are going to miss the tax revenue like CA and they will still have to deal with all the people caught with over an ounce which will probably increase with decrim and then Philly will be back to the 5% court burden. Better to just legalize and tax.

  4. that cop needs to have a citation in his record for even opening his mouth they are doing this to save money the cop is doing this to save his job

    remember a pot bust is still a bust evan if it is the lowest hanging fruit

  5. kent, EXACTLY.

    When is the American Constitution going to be brought back into our judicial system? We the People have spoken with LOUD voices. Give us Freedom, or this country will split. Freedom to the left, the rest of you dumb ass communists to the right.

  6. This is a great day for
    Philadelphians this will be beneficial for hippies as well as citizens and taxpayers win win win !

  7. Oh boy, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. As a peaceful pot user and otherwise good citizen, I truly believe that arresting people for marijuana is a huge waste of taxpayers money. I just wish the gov’t would realize it.

    As for the police officer who said, ““We’re not going to stop locking people up … our officers are trained to do that.” I’d like to see the police officers learn how to “think outside the box” and focus their efforts on the real criminals.

    Imagine how much safer the city of Philadelphia would be if police officers spent their time arresting real criminals and leaving peaceful marijuana users alone. (and when I say peaceful users – I mean they do NOT drive under the influence – just stay home and enjoy the weed – do not get in the car – if they do, then the cops should get them and enforce every law they can think of.

  8. Hello everyone! I have missed you! My computer had to be in the shop for a couple of weeks but is like new now, thankfully.

    I am announcing to the world that my federal case was accepted once again in Denver 10th Circuit last week for review.

    I am also in close contact with the Washington Department of Justice regarding my personal case that began in 1997.

    I hope everyone had a very happy Easter! I know I did; very lucky to have such great family and friends in life.

    It sounds like alot of progress is still marching forward.

    Congratulations to everyone and let’s all keep up the strife in this old life!

  9. @1

    I wish it weren’t so, but California legalization won’t pass. The midterm electorate is traditionally more conservative than in Presidential years.

  10. stop wasting wishes on negatives. the very important issue for self determination as a nation rests on california. do something positive to help, if you don’t live in california, send money to help the cause. this moment in the history of our nation rests with the voters of california. the scope of this moment in time may be lost on some of us, but if we should lose, the drug nazi’s will take full advantage, and if you think they used to be drug nazi’s, well, i’m afraid the old set of teeth this beast has been given will pale in comparison to the new drug nazi’s and all the lost liberties to secret police and eavesdropping for the brand new regime of say no to personal freedoms. they have gloried in their power, just read the officers response, he’s paid by us, he follows our laws, except when he knows whats best. when did law enforcement have the right to adopt it’s own policies? there you go, another drug nazi. they are gearing up in california to override the majority, then nationwide. they are already doing it, every poll shows over 80% of “we the people” support and want medical marijuana. do more than wish!

  11. While this is exciting especially because I live so close to Philly, the California bill needs the most attention because it is the biggest possible change out there and it’s only a vote away from being reality!!

  12. But in a frustrating case of two steps forward, one step back, a Philly police spokesman tells the paper, “We’re not going to stop locking people up … our officers are trained to do that. Whether or not they make it through the charging process, that’s up to the D.A. We can’t control that. Until they legalize it, we’re not going to stop.”

    Well you know what this cop is thinking…he will fall back on federal law which still says cannabis possesion is illegal and a arrestable offense. So does he think hes a federal employee now? Does he not know the people have spoken? Who pays his wages? Oh ya the people. After he violated city laws enough and bring people to jail for a non crime, I would think the people and judges would get tired of his disobediance and get him fired.

    But until the states get it legal and federal law is chaged we will have asshole cops like this, falling back on federal law so he can continue to harrass cannabis consumers.

  13. Holy Smokes. We don’t make the laws. We just enforce them. I sure hope that no LE organizations make claims to keep the war going because they have almost won.

    The Universal Life Chruch of the Holy Smokes

  14. Little does this cop know that there will be a reckoning. Reparations will be paid to the victims of the drug war; those whose lives have been utterly destroyed by unjust laws and the police who unquestioningly enforce them. Those complicit in these injustices will not be treated with benign tolerance forever. You will not simply get to walk away from the mess you created. One day you will have to account for your actions – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

  15. If only we had another Abraham Lincoln, so he could issue the second emancipation proclamation, but this time we are freeing all of the citizens of this great nation.

  16. wont be another Abe lincoln unless this country starts over again. There is no need to start another “major document of laws” because our founding fathers wrote enough laws for this country. THEY DID NOT WANT MORE LAWS TO GOVERN THE PEOPLE. ONLY TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE. Why should we have more BILL OF RIGHTS when we cant even enforce the one we have correctly. GUILTY UNTIL INNOCENT is the new way for cops.

  17. I agree with Ben. If we don’t legalize in 2010, the pendulum might swing back the other way, and we’ll lose our momentum… We need to legalize in 2010.. We need to put all our energy into 2010!!

  18. <<<<>>>>

    Thank you for the posting above.. I can so relate to it’s message …As a peaceful pot smoking good person and tax paying citizen of this country I have been a victim of the “drug war” having a police officer illegally enter into my vehicle and find the pot I was transporting to my best friend and my own home. The pain and utter suffering that followed was unbelievable! Not just affecting myself but my entire family. My name in the front page of the local paper (Bucks) describing me as a drug dealer accused of dealing thousands of dollars of pot in the area! LIE!! The embarrasment my entire large family felt who lives within the region was almost unbearable. The Absolute CORRUPTION within the government and local township with myself being threatened not to fight the illegal search and seizure or I would definitely go to prison. The one good thing that came of it was that everyone in my family became closer and fully became aware no matter what our political party or views were that we all shared the same ground when it came to what I had in my car. LEGALIZE MARIJUANA! This “war on drugs” is not working and COPS PLEASE concentrate on the REAL CRIMINALS like the rapists and child molestors and murderers, and DOCTORS WHO DO NOT TEACH NUTRITION BUT TEACH PHARMACEUTICAL ADDICITION INSTEAD!! This is what our tax dollars should be paying for! The focus is not there! We need a MAJOR overhaul!!!!

  19. Storm troopers in philly who refuse the orders of their bosses should be fired immediatly. That should be warning enough to all officers that arrest instead of ticketing is now or soon will be the stance of the philly police dept. I respect the fact that the D.A. wants to change the current policy but it is still WRONG!!! Regulate and tax is the American way, not prohibition. Free the weed and you free the people.

  20. Little by little, the legal structure is changing. The Philly police spokesman will probably see a few (or a few dozen) more arrests, after which the DA and the Chief of Police will go out for lunch and find a way to get the police on board with the new policy. These changes never happen all at once, but little by little we’re seeing progress. As this catches on, the higher-level elected officials (State legislators, governors, Congresspersons, Senators) will see which way the wind is blowing in their local area or home state, and they’ll realize that to be elected they need to work with, rather than against, their citizens. The times they are a-changing, and the laws are changing with them.

    Let’s be polite, avoid profanity in our postings, express appreciation to those who move things in the right direction (anybody in Philly sent a Thank You note to Philly’s new DA or the Supreme Court?), and keep moving forward, one step at a time.

  21. And just to keep this on the front burner:

    California citizens can REGISTER by May 24 to register to vote!

    Citzens of California can register to vote at
    by completing the online form and mailing it to the address on the form.
    You can check out the website so you can assure yourelf it’s legit, and then repost the link as you think appropriate.

    Those registering by May 24 2010 can vote in the Primary Elections on June 8.
    Those registering by October 18 can vote in the November 2 General Election.

  22. Conservative, I have to cuss. That is the way I talk. I am a poor boy from the hills of Missouri and I dont speak proper english. I also call it like I see it. The cop is an asshole. Why should I respect him while he ass rapes me when he talks about throwing my brothers and sisters in prison. I am sorry.

  23. Conservative Christian:

    You cannot get an important message across with a polite whisper.
    You see, politeness is not a viable tool when fighting a war. See, nobody pays any attention to anything I say unless I scream at the top of my lungs or in the case of an internet forum. I will post this as is and you will see it get ignored. But watch the reaction to my followup post.

  24. Some words of wisdom from an ancient text, advising us “To be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, [but] gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.”

    If our goal is to get attention or to vent our anger, all caps and profanity will probably do the trick. If our goal is to win people over to our thinking, people with kids, people who are trying to decide which way they will vote when this issue comes to their town, we might want to present ourselves as the voice of credibility and amiability. Let’s be the kind of people that the undecided voters will want to work with. Let’s win their hearts with our good works and our good words. Venting and swearing is probably not the way to win over the voting public.

  25. Thanks for the feedback, Mark. I picked my screen name in order to try to create an awareness that many practicing Christians want to see an end to the evil of prohibition. As you know, many practicing Christians wanted to see an end to the alcohol prohibition, and for similar reasons: destruction of families when family members were jailed; gang violence; corruption of the legal system; you know the list. Practicing Christians were also some of the vocal opponents of slavery in the U.S. and Great Britain in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Anyway, like I said, I chose this screen name in order to encourage practicing Christians to come to the table. (Note that many people who described themselves as Christians have, throughout history, abused and oppressed other people. Jesus said, “By your fruits you shall know them,” so let’s not _necessarily_ assume that everyone who uses the name is in fact a Christian. And to use the old joke, I think the term “practicing Christian” works pretty well for me; I’m still practicing because I haven’t gotten it down just yet… 😉 )
    Keep up the good work.

  26. King or the black panthers, Peace movement or the sds. This movement will not win with violence. It will win because it is wright.

  27. Mark, no offence taken. I interpreted your post as an example of a literary style, well worth considering as an option when addressing the goal: How to win the hearts and minds of the many undecided people who might be reading our posts? (And I appreciate the followup; we’re all getting better at this together!)

    Jay, Excellent examples! Gandhi also comes to mind, as does the ministry of Jesus. Thanks for the input!

  28. i’m one who says that decriminalization of any substance is wrong because it is a hypocritical stance to take, It is not harmful enough that simple users should be prosecuted, this is who most drug policy laws should be based off of, but lets keep it illegal so that even though users won’t be put in jail it will still be sold on the streets and through black market entrepreneurs

    just legalize it’s safer on our society then decriminalization which can actually be bad because it is still illegal and now encouraged

  29. @Conservative Christian and @ Mark – I think we need both ways of approach, I’m not condoning violent acts, but I think Mark’s FU attitude works for a lot of people too, like myself for example. I dont believe in the middle ground on this issue. Government has screwed up for some 70+ years and now that the laws are finally becoming what they should have been, some asshole cops are trying to take law into their own hands and interpret it the way that they see fit, fuck that.
    At the same time, I agree, we cant be all screaming and protesting, a lot of the hearts and minds will not be won that way and will need a more peacefull approach as CC had suggested. So I think as long as we all on the same side, and think rationally when we protest or just try to educate somebody, more good will come out of it than harm.
    You guys both do awesome job and yes Mark YOUR CAPS ARE HARD TO MISS.

    Free The Weed. Free The People.

  30. I want those fucking cops to have to fill out a shitload of extra paperwork for each and every cannabis arrest! Better yet, threaten them with layoffs and downsizing if they don’t shut up and let Philadelphia legalize it outright and tax it, regardless of state and federal law. There are so many people percentage wise who use weed in the city, and Nutter could be taking in so much more taxes to pay for shit, you know, more than what they’re still going to be able to get with their assholish decriminalization plans that are still a damn gettin’ caught tax, you know, whether they just fine you, or take property, or w h a t e v e r.

  31. @Mark, C.C., F.T.W. free the weed that is. I am just happy to have all opinions and facts available to the public. I never dreamed growing up about the laws being broken by the police. The computer brought all this to light. Now we are winning the war against the people by big brother. We almost lost free speech on the internet just a couple days ago by the F.C.C.. The high court ruled against that. Obama is now appointing his own judge from Berkly. We have now a health care program that is going to bankrupt the nation. Even tho it is against the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION to force the people to buy their crap because we live in America. It seems the less restrictive marijuana laws get the less freedom we have. I know this is not a political forum but MPP, I feel should take a political stand along with cannabis reform. We are loosing our constitutional rights at an alarming rate. Obama says to redistribute the nations wealth. I have been poor all my life and I DO NOT WANT ANYONE ELSES MONEY!!! I want to have my right to choose to use cannabis or not. I want the right to choose to drink if I want. I want the right to free speech. If my neighbor wants to marry another man he should be able to make that choice. I am not god, not even close, so I sure as hell cannot tell another human what they must do. Dictators tell their people what to do. NOVEMBER is the start of a NATIONAL CANNABIS REFORM start I hope.

  32. fox claims pot is safer than booze and cigarettes..
    I must know: how did you smoke 15 blunts in one day? A blunt is rolled in the wrapper off a cheap cigar, or a wrapper that could have gone on one. It takes about half an hour to smoke one of those cigars, so…fifteen blunts is seven and a half hours of doing nothing but smoking dope. If you gotta smoke weed for seven and a half hours to get a decent buzz on, switch dealers; the one you have is dealing ditch weed.
    , or whenever I read “facts” (facts that are based on studies 50 years old that have been proven wrong countless time since then…) on marijuana from
    the government, I can’t help but laugh.

    At the same time, it’s sad that people can’t open up their eyes: Marijuana is not the Devil society try to convince us it is.

    But let’s get some false fact first, and try to correct them.

    “Marijuana has some of the same cancer-causing substances as tobacco. One joint can deliver four times as much cancer-causing tar as one cigarette.”

    This is true if you take a ratio of marijuana plant / tobacco. But if you take the buds (the part that is smoked in marijuana), then it delivers 1/3 of the Tar the same weight of tobacco would deliver. In the first study on Marijuana smoke, scientists have burned the whole plant – leaves, stems, buds, everything. That is why there was this much tar. Even if this fact was proven wrong with a recent study, there’s no way the government or groups like Above the Influence would change their sayings to “Tobacco can deliver three times as much cancer-causing tar as one joint”, now would they?

    I guess Anti-drugs groups would still say it’s wrong to smoke weed even if government made it legal. They remind me of preacher telling people not to masturbate because they would become deaf. But anyway, I’m getting away from the subject.

    “Marijuana is Illegal” I can’t say it’s not true, but it’s illegal because the government can’t say “Hey, we were wrong on the War on Drugs, we spent X billions but thing is… marijuana is actually good, sorry to everyone we put in jail”. It’s illegal because it’s part of the politics game, not because it’s bad.

    “Smoking pot affects alertness, concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time, many of the skills required for safe driving and other tasks. These effects can last several hours after smoking.

    i also have several friends that started out with pot and got into harder drugs that eventually lead them to death. so this idiot’s comments about pot is another lie full of crap.

  33. and remember too , all the criminals and terrorists fund just that on drugs… anything to come up with tax money to justify ignorance !!

  34. anyone who has supported prohibition has particpated in and is an accomplice to the the greatest crime wave in American history.

  35. Oracle, your passion is admirable. I’ll again suggest, though, that we keep in mind the audience we are trying to win over (e.g., the parents at a PTA meeting who have heard all kinds of horror stories about “potheads”). I think we’ll win more converts and more VOTES if we tailor our message to win over that audience. As November approaches, we can be sure that the prohibitionists will be picking through all of the pro-legalization websites, just hoping to find postings that they can publicize as evidence that the pro-legalization group is somehow “bad.” Let’s not give them any easy ammunition (i.e., we don’t want to lose oure PASSION, we just want to express it in a way that’s going to get the RESULTS, which means the VOTES, which means we’ve got to appeal to that undecided voter, that parent of small children, that grandmother who’s worried about her grandkids. Let’s appeal to THEM!)

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