Philadelphia police

Marijuana Criminal Cases Dropped En Masse by Philadelphia District Attorney

The new DA's message to police who arrest people for simple pot possession: We're going to drop the charges.

The Philadelphia District Attorney said criminal charges for marijuana possession against 51 people were dropped en masse last week ahead of a meeting with assistant district attorneys Thursday where the DA would outline a new pot policy.

The new policy will be straight-forward, according to District Attorney Larry Krasner.

"We are going to tell them, yes, drop any cases that are simply marijuana possession," Krasner said at a press conference prior to the staff meeting. He stressed that the policy only applies to simple possession, not charges like possession with intent to deliver or selling it.

His approach builds on 4-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.

Previously, getting caught with marijuana meant an arrest and often-lengthy amount of time being processed at a police district.

Krasner said citations are now issued about 90 percent of the time someone is caught with marijuana. 

"What we're talking about is the 10 percent or so that are being charged as they used to be, as misdemeanors in court," he said. From now on, if a police officer arrests someone for marijuana possession, he said his office will not pursue the case.

A spokesman for Krasner said he did not have a list of the cases that were dropped last week.

"I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do," Krasner said. "We could use those resources to solve homicides."

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