Officials for the city of Portsmouth (population 95,000) will no longer seek to criminally prosecute low-level marijuana possession offenses.
“Effective immediately, please be advised that this office hereby moves for dismissal … on all possession of marijuana charges in the Portsmouth General District Court,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie N. Morales stated in an April 8th correspondence to judges.
In comments to local news media, Morales said that prosecutors ought to focus their limited resources toward more serious crimes. “It is really time we think about how we start to decarcerate as opposed to incarcerating for every type of crime,” she said.
Under state law, first-time marijuana possession violations are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
Her actions are similar to those recently taken in Norfolk, Virginia (population 255,000), as well as in a number of other major cities throughout the country, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.