Softer pot laws saved Philadelphia $2 million in 2010

By David Ferguson
Saturday, July 9th, 2011

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office estimates that it saved the city two million dollars in revenue through a new program designed to deal with individuals arrested with less than 30 grams (slightly more than one ounce) of marijuana.

According to The Philadelphia Daily News, new sentencing guidelines have meant that the city no longer has to foot the bill for court-appointed defense attorneys, prosecutorial fees, lab tests, or overtime wages paid to police officers who appear in court. Additionally, says the article, legal personnel at all levels are freed up to concentrate on more serious crimes.

Thousands of cases have been diverted to through Philadelphia’s so-called Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) program, which is designed to process marijuana users quickly through the system and leave them with a clean record. The effort might have been doomed to failure had it not received the support of law enforcement personnel, who say that efforts to take marijuana off the streets use up resources and do little to dent the supply available to users.

In the year since the policy has gone into effect, police say that they’ve noticed no discernible change in the city’s quality of life.