Renee: Today we are taking a closer look at the bill passed by Philadelphia City Council. The measure would mean anyone caught with less than an ounce of pot would only get a twenty-five dollar fine instead of a mandatory arrest. The mayor now gets the bill and has to decide whether or not to sign it. Attorney Enrique Latoison joins us now live in our Digital Operations Center to give us some perspective on this bill and let me ask you, Enrique, what are the kind of legal consequences as well as the issues that come along with the possession of marijuana?
Enrique: Well, right now in Pennsylvania, if you’re convicted of possession of marijuana, the maximum penalty is thirty days in jail and a five hundred dollar fine, which tends to always be probation, but it also comes with two other very strict penalties. It comes with a six months license suspension – that means you can’t drive a vehicle for six months – and it also comes with a permanent record. It cannot be expunged in Pennsylvania if you’re convicted of that charge currently the way the law is.
Renee: Also, you know, if Philadelphia passes this law – and you’ve touched on this – does it drastically change enforcement of marijuana possession and so how can the city benefit?
Enrique: Well, right now, they have a program called a SAM program, so Small Amount of Marijuana Possession Program currently in Philadelphia. So right now, if you get caught with marijuana, what happens is you are arrested, you’re booked, you’re photographed, you get put into a program that the district attorney’s office runs. If you complete that program, you pay a two hundred dollar fine and it’s automatically wiped off your record. So with the new program, instead of wasting the resources of them having to arrest, book, photograph, what happens is you just get a twenty dollar summary fine. If you pay that fine, it automatically is wiped off your record, so the difference is having to still go through the whole process and wasting the resources of the police department, and now just being able to send that twenty five dollar fine and they both get wiped off your record and it is very similar to the program they have now. I mean, the district attorney’s office does have that program for a reason and recognizes that it’s not a major crime.
Renee: Enrique, real quickly, looking down the road here with a more relaxed position on marijuana enforcement, what other crimes could rise as a result of this?
Enrique: Well, as a defense attorney, I will say that any crime that could possibly increase the intoxication of individuals, you have the same kind of issues. Normally, there could be increase in DUI, there could be increase in domestic issues and other crimes where people who are not thinking with a sound mind or maybe under the influence of alcohol or any kind of drug, those are the kind of increase in crimes that you could see.
Renee: All right, a lot to think about on this one. Attorney Enrique Latoison, thank you so much for coming in and talking to us about this today.
Enrique: Thank you.