Philadelphia's top prosecutor decriminalizes marijuana possession

By Susan McFarland  |  Feb. 16, 2018 at 12:12 PM
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Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has given a message to police officers in his city -- if they arrest people for simple marijuana possession, he's not going to prosecute the cases.

Krasner announced the policy Thursday, saying charges have been dropped in 51 cases of simple marijuana possession. The reason -- taxpayer money is better spent elsewhere.

"We are going to tell [police], yes, drop any cases that are simply marijuana possession," Krasner said at a news conference.

"I felt it was the right thing to do. We could use those resources to solve homicides."

Krasner said the policy applies only to simple marijuana possession cases, not charges of possession with intent to sell or deliver.

The move essentially makes small-scale marijuana possession in Philadelphia punishable only by a fine. Previously, those found in possession could be arrested and booked on criminal misdemeanor charges at a police station.

Since taking office in January, Krasner has made attempts to reform Philadelphia drug policy.

Friday, he announced his office is suing 10 pharmaceutical companies for helping create Philadelphia's opioid troubles.

The drug makers targeted by the suit are Purdue Pharma, L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company; Allergan Finance; Cephalon; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA; Endo Health Solutions; Endo Pharmaceuticals; Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson.

"The City of Philadelphia has been hurt, more than any other city in the nation, by the scourge of opioids," Krasner said. "The time to act is now, which is why I've taken this unprecedented action ... to stop these companies from systematically distracting the public from knowing the true dangers of opioid use as they reap billions of dollars in profits."

The lawsuit seeks to recover some of the costs Philadelphia has paid due to the opioid epidemic.

There are currently 16 separate lawsuits by municipalities in Pennsylvania against opioid manufacturers, including Philadelphia. Krasner's suit is the first of its kind filed by a county district attorney under the Consumer Protection Law, his office said.

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