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Joining Nationwide Shift, Philadelphia's Progressive DA Drops Dozens of Marijuana Possession Charges

The city became the third in recent weeks to announce reforms to its marijuana policy, with DA Larry Krasner saying the change will free up resources to target serious violent crimes

Philadelphia District Attorney said Thursday he would dismiss all criminal charges related solely to marijuana possession, marking a shift toward the type of policy that has been introduced in Seattle and San Francisco in recent days. (Photo: @MacDonaldWHYY/Twitter)

Joining a number of other major cities, Philadelphia has dropped criminal charges against dozens of residents for marijuana possession, with District Attorney Larry Krasner outlining a new policy for the drug on Thursday.

The charges against 51 people were dropped last week, Krasner announced.

"We are going to tell them, yes, drop any cases that are simply marijuana possession," Krasner said of the new drug policy directive for the city.

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The cleared charges did not apply to people who were accused of having an intent to deliver or sell marijuana.

Krasner's move is the latest marijuana policy reform to reach a major city. Last week, Seattle vacated hundreds of pot possession convictions and cleared charges that had been filed before marijuana was legalized in the city in 2012.

Last month, San Francisco did the same for all marijuana convictions dating back to 1975, and in San Diego County, nearly 700 marijuana felony convictions have been reduced to misdemeanors since January.

Although Philadelphia introduced a new policy in 2014 that made possession of up to 30 grams of pot punishable by a $25 fine, Krasner said some people have still been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor if they're caught with the substance.

"What we're talking about is the 10 percent or so that are being charged as they used to be, as misdemeanors in court," said Krasner, who campaigned on criminal justice reform and who has represented Black Lives Matter activists.

Progressives, who applauded Krasner's election in November, praised the district attorney for introducing the reforms, which he noted would allow the city to direct more resources to fighting violent crimes.

"I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do," Krasner said of the decision. "We could use those resources to solve homicides."

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