Many of those in Philadelphia who smoke or consume marijuana may think that the consequences of using marijuana are not as serious as the use of other drugs. And, indeed, the law in Philadelphia seems to agree with these people that marijuana is not as serious as other drugs. The city of Philadelphia has de-criminalized marijuana possession, if the amount possessed is a small amount.
A small amount is defined as 30 grams or less. This is the equivalent of one ounce or 60 $5 bags of marijuana. So, if people are caught possessing under 30 grams of marijuana or smoking a small amount in public, they will not be charged with a crime. Instead they will be given a civil violation notice by the police. This can be done in person or mailed to the offender later. The people will not be arrested either. They will simply have to pay a fine.
While possessing a small amount of marijuana is no longer a crime in Philadelphia, possession of most other drugs will result in criminal charges. These charges come with serious consequences if the person is convicted. However, the person may have a defense to the crime and be able to avoid the serious consequences.
Although the recreational use of marijuana will no longer result in criminal charges under certain circumstances, it is important to keep in mind that this is just for small amounts of marijuana and not a larger amount or other drugs. Those can still lead to criminal charges and potentially convictions. Criminal defense attorneys understand the defenses to these crimes and may be able to protect one's rights.
Source: Philadelphia Police Department, "Directive 3.23" accessed on April 11, 2016