The "Backdoor Decriminalization" Of Marijuana

A very interesting development from the City of Brotherly Love:
[Seth] Williams, who replaced [Lynne] Abraham as district attorney in January 2010, has saved an estimated $2 million in the past year by diverting thousands of marijuana-possession cases into a new program that processes pot smokers quickly and leaves them with a clean record.

'Smarter way'

The Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) program, which Williams implemented in June 2010, frees up prosecutors to concentrate on more serious crimes by treating arrests for marijuana possession of up to 30 grams - slightly more than an ounce - as a summary offense, rather than a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor charge carried a maximum penalty of 30 days' probation or jail time and a $500 fine.

Few minor pot arrests resulted in jail time even under the old system, but those found guilty of possession were left with a permanent criminal record.

Now, marijuana offenders pay $200 for a three-hour class about drug abuse, and their record is expunged. No trial, no judge, no court-appointed defense attorneys, no prosecutor, no lab tests to confirm the "leafy green substance" is actually marijuana, no cops getting paid overtime to testify.

"We were spending thousands of dollars for when someone possessed $10 or $15 worth of weed," Williams said of the way marijuana cases were prosecuted when he was elected. "It just didn't make any sense."

Approximately 4,160 defendants enrolled in the SAM program during its first year, according to Jodi Lobel, deputy of the D.A.'s Pretrial Division. "We decided to design a smarter way," Lobel said.

Last week, defendants trickled out of Room 404 at the Criminal Justice Center after a trial commissioner had briefly explained the SAM program. The vast majority now take that option over a formal trial.

"I didn't even get to smoke it," Crystal Roberts smirked, with a touch of wistfulness.

The 21-year-old bartender was arrested last month with a few nickel bags of weed. She grumbled about the cost of the drug class she'd have to attend, but was glad that the SAM program would be quick and simple.

"This is better than going to trial," Roberts admitted.

Lobel cringes at the word "decriminalization," insisting that pot remains illegal in Philadelphia. But the SAM program is, in effect, backdoor decriminalization. Offenders who complete the program are not tagged with a criminal record, even though they technically committed a crime.
My emphasis.

While weed will still be illegal in Philadelphia, it seems that the City is coming to its senses regarding the so-called "war on drugs". It doesn't work.

Simply put:
the war on drugs may be well intentioned
but it falls fucking flat, when you stop and mention
an overcrowded prison where a rapist gets paroled
to make room for a dude who has sold
a pound of weed, to me that's a crime
here's to good people doin time y'all