When Philadelphia citizens elected Larry Krasner to be the city’s new district attorney last November, it was with a hope that the candidate—who was backed by local Black Lives Matter activists—would reform the justice system. Yesterday (February 15), he took a step in that direction.
Ahead of a meeting with his staff of assistant district attorneys, Krasner announced that his office had dropped criminal marijuana possession charges against 51 people. He also revealed his new policy: Moving forward, the office will drop all possession charges that aren’t coupled with intent to deliver or sell.
NBC Philadelphia reports that the move builds on a previous rule change that allows police to issue citations for possession, rather than make arrests. Krasner said that nine times out of ten, officers opt for a fine. But he will no longer prosecute the rest.
“What we’re talking about is the 10 percent or so that are being charged as they used to be, as misdemeanors in court,” he told press. “I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do,” he continued. “We could use those resources to solve homicides.”
Per the U.S. Census Bureau, Philadelphia County—which shares borders with the city—is 44.2 percent Black. Overall, the city’s popuation is 55.2 percent people of color. Nationwide, despite using marijuana at about the same rate, Black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for the drug than Whites.