Despite David Gambacorta’s stupid take on the topic (it is the Philadelphia Daily News after all, a newspaper that provides op-ed space to writers who approve of child molestation), District Attorney Seth Williams and Justice Seamus McCaffery are doing the right thing by downgrading marijuana possession as a crime:
The problem, explained state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, is pretty simple: about 3,000 people a year are charged with a misdemeanor for possessing 30 grams – about an ounce – or less of marijuana.
Those cases slowly work through the city’s severely clogged court system, taking up the time of judges, attorneys and police officers, all “for a crime that’s supposed to have a 30-day [jail] case, even though no one ever sees 30 days,” McCaffery said.
The solution crafted by Williams, McCaffery and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille calls for small-time possession cases to be charged as summary offenses, which can be resolved with fines, community service and an abbreviated trip through the courts.
“This is a big-picture issue,” McCaffery said, referring to the overburdened local court system. “We decided to take a more rational and common-sense approach.”
Not only is this good news for pot smokers, who risk prison and denial of federal student loans if caught for this “crime” that hurts no one, it’s good news for taxpayers:
Frat boys will still get fingerprinted for firing up on SEPTA or at Phillies games. But unless they’re dealers, they’ll probably pay a $200 fine, endure a preachy antidrug video, and emerge unscathed, without a criminal record. Sigma Chi saves face, and a strapped city saves millions.
“These marijuana cases just don’t make financial sense. Each time a case is listed costs us at least $1,000,” Williams conceded.
“For the most part, these are knuckleheads with one or two joints in their possession,” the D.A. told me. “People shooting people, robbing people, raping people – those are the cases that really deserve our attention and resources.” […]
“We identified the fact that marijuana consumers in Philadelphia are treated more harshly than they are in the rest of the state,” [NORML advocate] Goldstein told me. “We pointed out the insidious racial disparity in the arrest data. We estimate that marijuana mug shots cost this city at least $3 million a year.”
At a time when the city is facing a massive deficit and cutting services to the poor (because god forbid the wealthy pay higher taxes, right Mayor Nutter?), this is a good move that will raise revenue (there are a LOT of potheads in Philly) and save lives. Not in the “oh-they-took-the-poison-out-of-the-water” sense, but in the sense of “your-marijuana-offense-no-longer-locks-you-out-of-college-with-a-criminal-record.”
Good on Seth William