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To Clear Court Docket, Philly Eases Marijuana Penalties

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People caught possessing marijuana in Philadelphia will soon face nothing more than a fine as the city — seeking to clear minor cases from court dockets — makes the offense even less than a misdemeanor.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported April 5 that Philadelphia is effectively decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana: offenders will not have a criminal record if convicted of possession, which now will be considered a summary offense.

“We have to be smart on crime,” said the city’s new district attorney, Seth Williams. “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.”

Officials expect that downgrading possession penalties will clear the courtrooms of 3,000 marijuana cases. Police officials said officers will still stop individuals caught with marijuana. Fines would be set at $200 for a first offense and $300 for subsequent offenses.

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