This novel coronavirus, Covid-19, has forced all of us to operate in totally new and innovative ways.
For most of us, this simply means that we are changing the way that we shop or spend our days at home. But for the police and legal system of Philadelphia, they have had to change the way they uphold the law altogether.
Outside of the famous Independence Hall in central city Philadelphia, hangs a sign stating, ‘ buildings on Independence Square are closed’. The fears of the spread of the novel Coronavirus have forced the court systems in the city of Philadelphia to temporarily shut down and suspend all operations until further notice.
This has, of course, led to no small number of hiccups and issues for those awaiting processing and trial. Those who are currently being detained awaiting their hearings, are not able to receive their hearings until further notice.
As a result, the Philadelphia city jails are packed to the gills, with no end in sight.
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Non-Violent Crime Would Be Made Pursuant to a Warrant
Not long after April 1st saw the shutdown of the courts in Philadelphia, a representative of the Philadelphia police department issued a statement that all non-violent crime arrests would be made pursuant to a warrant.
This means that all offenders will be arrested if caught in the act, but would be held on an arrest warrant, instead of being detained. This is very similar to the ‘summons process’ that many other countries utilize in these such circumstances.
In essence, those who are caught in possession of marijuana, caught shoplifting, caught engaging in solicitation of prostitution, etc. could likely not become detained at all until after the courts re-open.
It should be noted, however, that the officers in Philadelphia have still been given the right to arrest–or not arrest– at their direction. This has led many to question whether issuing arrest warrants for marijuana charges is worth it at all.
Marijuana as a substance is perfectly legal in many states throughout the USA, and as such should not be considered in the same ‘pool’ as the other non-violent crimes being issued warrants for; at least in the eyes of many.
Other States Have Are Taking Similar Approaches
Other states such as Maryland, and New Jersey have begun to take on similar approaches to the rising issues of overcrowded prisons and bogged down court systems.
Baltimore in particular has become very relaxed towards marijuana arrests, with many legislators in New Jersey stating that they see this as an opportunity to change their views on marijuana altogether.
How Has the Pandemic Impacted the Marijuana Industry?
This pandemic has impacted the marijuana industry in unique ways across the board. However, the recent halt on non-violent arrests has forced many in the public to question whether it should affect the way we view marijuana legally in general.
When faced with the choice of making arrests of non-violent offenders, some in the Philadelphia police department have implied that marijuana offenders are at the bottom of the priority list.
So, why should they be on the list at all? Currently those who are caught and arrested for marijuana will be released on arrest warrants which will be pursued after the courts re-open; but many are hoping that the charges are never brought to court at all. This could force a major reform in marijuana law in the city altogether moving forward.
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