UPDATE: Philadelphia DA on Philly's "Decrim"

Earlier today, I blogged about Philadelphia embracing a sort of decriminalization of minor marijuana possession based on an article that appeared today in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It appears that article not only caught my attention, but also that of a lot of Philadelphians, who have been calling up the DA's office all day. This afternoon, District Attorney Seth Williams issued the following statement of clarification:
Based upon inquiries to this office it appears that some confusion exists regarding potential changes in charging policy when it comes to minimal amounts of marijuana. "We are not decriminalizing marijuana--any effort like that would be one for the legislature to undertake. The penalty available for these minimal amount offenses remains exactly the same. What we are doing is properly dealing with cases involving minimal amounts of marijuana in the most efficient and cost effective process possible. Those arrested for these offenses will still be restrained, identified and processed by police in police custody. They will still have to answer to the charges, but they will be doing so in a speedier and more efficient process. We want to use valuable court resources in the best way possible and we believe that means giving minor drug offenders the option of getting into diversionary programs, get drug education or enter drug treatment centers. Again we are NOT decriminalizing marijuana, and the penalty for these offenses remains the same."
It looks like DA Williams is trying to have it both ways. The Inquirer story--which Williams doesn't contradict in his statement--says that small-time pot offenders will be sent to a special "quality of life" court and fined. While Williams is correct that it would be that state legislature that woud decriminalize marijuana possession, It is a sort of de facto partial decriminalization, with people arrested, but not processed in the criminal courts or jailed upon conviction. I'll try to have this cleared up by the time we publish the Chronicle story about it on Friday.
Location: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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