The City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is making a logical, bold move this week; it is ‘essentially’ decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. I say ‘essentially,’ because on the books the laws will still be the same. However, when the case gets to court prosecutors will treat the case like a summary offense rather than a misdemeanor; there will be no jail sentence or criminal record, just a fine. The change in policy came after incoming District Attorney Seth Williams made a deal with Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery to save money for the city.
“We have to be smart on crime,” said District Attorney Seth Williams, who took office in January. “We can’t declare a war on drugs by going after the kid who’s smoking a joint on 55th Street. We have to go after the large traffickers.” I have to admit, I read that quote about five times when I read the original article. Its times like this that I wish I was rich, and I could buy billboards across the nation, and put this quote on every one of them. How in the hell do we get this guy on to the US Supreme Court??
Why doesn’t every city/county/state in the nation do this? Every jurisdiction in the nation is engulfed in a budget crisis, and would benefit from the saved revenue. In Philadelphia alone, they are going to avoid unnecessary incarcerations and treatments for cases that amount to roughly 5 percent of the entire criminal court caseload. Imagine if every city/county/state in America followed suit and put that saved money towards education for America’s children?
It seems like a logical thing that everyone should support right? I mean, after all, this would only apply to marijuana users, not marijuana sellers. Yet, sadly, there are still people in the law enforcement community that want to cling to the past. “We’re not going to stop locking people up,” said Lt. Frank Vanore. “We’re going to stop people for it. . . . Our officers are trained to do that,” Vanore said. “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.” To sum up; the incoming DA wants to save money, and quit wasting time and resources for a pointless crusade against marijuana consumers. The idea is backed by the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in addition to another Justice. However, the Philadelphia Police Department wants to pursue their own agenda, regardless of how obviously illogical and ridiculous it is.
Before the new policy can be implemented later this month, there are still a few details that need to be worked out. The main one is the base fine amount. Preliminary numbers are between $200-300. Defense lawyer Joseph C. Santaguida was quoted in the article as saying “it’s a good idea.” Another criminal defense lawyer, Brian Zeiger, said, ‘The city gets money, and the city doesn’t have to pay court overtime to the cops. It’s a guaranteed win for clients. It takes all the risk out of it.’ These are attorneys that are going to be losing money from this new policy, and they still support it; YOU KNOW IT’S A GOOD IDEA!
Photo by californiacriminallawyerblog.com