Unclogging the courts from marijuana cases

    Fines and jailtime will stay the same, but possessing a little more than an ounce of pot will now be a summary offense in Philadelphia, downgraded from a misdemeanor.

    Philadelphia’s District Attorney will be making a major change when it comes to prosecuting marijuana possession. The move is one of several reform measures meant to help free-up an overburdened court system.

    Possessing a little more than an ounce of pot will now be a summary offense in Philadelphia, downgraded from a misdemeanor.

    The District Attorney’s office says more than 3000 cases a year involve possession. Instead of multiple court appearances, those arrested could go before judges who handle public drinking and disorderly conduct charges.

    Assistant D.A. Joseph McGettigan says the fines and jailtime will not change.

    McGettigan: The available penalty will remain the same but rather than the case going through the municipal Court system with a potential for delays, and a generation of paper files and police witness appearance, we’ll be able to streamline that process, offer people diversion, treatment and the opportunity to pay a fine and thereby move cases more efficiently through the system.

    McGettigan says the change does not mean they are decriminalizing marijuana possession.

    State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille supports the change. Assistant Public Defender Charles Cunningham says the move is long overdue.

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