Male: This is NBC 10 News.
Denise Nakano: Philadelphia’s new marijuana law is now in effect. Starting today, those caught with small amounts of the drug will be issued a citation instead of getting arrested. In some cases, they’ll get community service. The new law does not make pot legal and it doesn’t mean you can’t be arrested if committing other crimes along with possessing or smoking pot.
Lt. John Stanford: If you see someone smoking marijuana, using it, there’s a citation in the form of $100 fine. If someone is in possession of a small amount of marijuana, which has been deemed as 30 grams or less, they will be issued a $25 violation notice.
Denise Nakano: Philadelphia may be decriminalizing it, but other communities have not. And, again, police say the only thing changing is punishment. But, it’s really more complicated than that.
Keith Jones: Yeah. For starters, if someone gets caught using marijuana, if they get stopped by state police in Philly, look out. Joining us now from our Digital Operation Center is legal expert, Enrique Latoison. Enrique, let’s start there. Explain that to us. If it involves state police, they catch you, what happens?
Enrique Latoison: Well, the state police have already said they’re going to enforce the state law. The state law is, if you get caught with a small amount of marijuana, it’s a misdemeanor. So, if you have the possession of a small amount of marijuana, you better not be driving on the highways in the Philadelphia area where you can come in contact with the state police. Now, if you get off of the highway, and you get onto the city streets, and you’re stopped by city police, then you get the fine. So, there’s going to be some issues here of how the District Attorney’s office is going to handle cases that come from the state police when they’re charging them with misdemeanors with the same thing that the city police is writing fines for.
Denise Nakano: Enrique, is it practical for police to enforce this change?
Enrique Latoison: This is going to be very difficult to enforce. I mean are the police going to walk around with scales? Are they going to be sitting there and measuring people’s marijuana to see whether or not you’re 30 grams or more? I mean how is that going to be handled? It’s still going to leave the issues of probable cause, unreasonable suspension, so there’s still…
Keith Jones: No. We seem to have lost Enrique Latoison, our NBC 10 Legal Analyst. We’re going to work on getting him back. Oh, there he is. Hey, Enrique, can you hear us?
Enrique Latoison: I can hear you fine.
Keith Jones: You got to love live TV. Another question I have for you, does this change anything for people caught selling marijuana?
Enrique Latoison: Well, you know, one of the things that was brought up, that this law was creating a disparity in a minority community with too many people being charged with simple possession of marijuana. Now, this law is going to make the people who buy marijuana only able to be penalized with a ticket. The people who sell marijuana are still going to be looking at a felony. So, you know, you have to wonder. Is this going to create more sellers because it’s going to create more buyers, and how’s that issue going to be handled?
Denise Nakano: Alright. Enrique Latoison, thank you so much for joining us with your insight.
Enrique Latoison: Thank you.
Keith Jones: Always good seeing you. Coming up on NBC 10 News at 6:00, find out why some say this new law doesn’t go far enough and why they want the drug to be legal.