Thursday, April 08, 2010

Revenue Enhancer

Philadelphia has decriminalized pot. At least for amounts under one ounce.

By Kamika Dunlap on April 7, 2010 9:55 AM

Philadelphia's new marijuana policy will take effect next month and decriminalizes the small possession of pot for personal use.

The goal of the new policy is to sweep about 3,000 small-time marijuana cases annually out of the main court system in an effort to unclog Philadelphia's crowded court dockets, reports. The policy decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana possession.

The policy shift will allow prosecutors to charge such cases for people with arrested with up to 30 grams (slightly more than an ounce) of the drug as summary offenses rather than as misdemeanors. As a result they may have to pay a fine but face no risk of a criminal record.

The fines could range from $200 for minor drug possession and first-time offenders and $300 for others. The fines could generate significant revenue for the Philadelphia courts.

Many marijuana consumers in Philadelphia welcome the new approach. Members of the city's defense bar also endorsed the new marijuana-prosecution policy.

Crushing state budget deficits gave advocates in California, Washington, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York and elsewhere an opening to pitch marijuana as a new source of tax revenue.
I wonder if police will be carrying scales?

Monica Yant Kinney I think has the best take on this.
Goldstein thought pols might act to avert a lawsuit over startling statistics showing black men make up more than 75 percent of pot arrests. Instead of fear, the promise of saving beaucoup cash - and even raising revenue - spurred the shift.

"There was," he noted, "too much money on the table to leave it."

You'd think if authorities are now treating pot possession as a summary offense, they'd simply seize the weed, issue a ticket, send the smoker walking, and save cops' time. But Williams won't go there, calling full-blown marijuana arrests a time-honored means of "clearing a corner."

Besides Williams, two state Supreme Court justices have signed off on the kinda-sorta-decriminalization, wink-and-nod-minimization pot policy change. One is Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, once the D.A. The other is Seamus P. McCaffery, the Harley-riding former cop who called advocates' wishful thinking about legalization "a crock."

"I spent 20 years patrolling the streets," McCaffery told me. "I'd lock up Monica Yant Kinney if I caught her smoking a joint."

At the same time, McCaffery seems to admit that until now, the penalty hasn't fit the crime. "We're giving young men and women criminal records," he demurred, "when it doesn't need to be that way."
Ah. Raising money from the previously untaxed. And the best thing? There is no limit on the amount that can be assessed on any given criminal - uh I mean taxpayer, or should that be citizen? Every State treats its marks, uh, I mean citizens, differently. Take California for instance.
On Wednesday, advocates for legalizing marijuana officially secured enough signatures to put a referendum on the California ballot this November asking voters to legalize and tax pot.
Taxes are a big selling point. Politicians can't resist. "People who want to be taxed? Its a miracle." But it is also a protection racket. "Please tax us so we don't have to live in fear."

So far the city of Washington DC hasn't caught on.
"California, like it or not, really pushes American politics and business in one direction or another," said St. Pierre, noting the issue is also expected to soon land on the ballot in Nevada and Oregon. "I am going to guess four to six years after the citizens of California pass something like this, there is either an initiative here or the city council takes it up."

Already, D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) has been grumbling publicly that some of the District's drug laws need to be reformed because too many residents are being locked up for drug possession. But Council member David A. Catania (I-At large), the chairman of the Committee on Health, and other council members have made it clear they do not want the medical marijuana legislation pending before the council to spiral into a debate over outright legalization.

A Washington Post poll conducted in January found District residents were split on whether they supported legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Forty-six percent of residents favored the idea, but 48 percent opposed.

But while 60 percent of whites supported legalizing marijuana, only 37 percent of African-Americans felt that way, largely due to strong opposition among older black women.
I would love to see a Republican Congress vote out prohibition as a fiscal sanity measure. Just to see heads explode on all sides of the issue.

Here are a couple of books on the subject. This one I have read:

Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

This one I have not:

Why Marijuana Should Be Legal

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