Philadelphia DA decriminalizes marijuana, but police to continue arrests

(RAW STORY)   The district attorney in America’s City of Brotherly Love intends to stop prosecuting people caught with less than 30 grams of marijuana, according to published reports.

Problem is, the police have every intent to keep on making arrests.

“We have to be smart on crime,” said District Attorney Seth Williams, according to The Philadelphia Enquirer. “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.”

However, a Philadelphia police spokesman countered: “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.”

“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,” scoffed lobbying group Marijuana Policy Project, in a blog for Opposing Views. “Except, you know, for police having to focus their efforts on more serious crimes.”

The move is a surprising one for Philadelphia, which does not have a clear history of being receptive to drug policy reforms. The city in 2007 decided to ban items which would be used to aid the consumption of illegal drugs, namely targeting the Philly blunt cigar, which can be hollowed out and filled with marijuana. The ban actually covered any item a seller might reasonably believe may be used in the consumption of drugs, drawing criticism because of its rather vague description of what it prohibits.

Proponents of the paraphernalia restrictions called the enhanced prohibition a crack down on “quality of life crime.”

The current district attorney in Philadelphia, who took office in January, reportedly brokered the policy change with two members of the state’s supreme court as a way of freeing up more time for judges and prosecutors already saddled with a massive backlog of marijuana cases involving small possession charges.

The new policy will levy a fine of $200 for a first offense and $300 for other offenses.

“The marijuana consumers of Philadelphia welcome this,” a spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws told the Enquirer.

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