Philadelphia weighs decriminalizing possession of less than ounce of pot

     (Photo courtesy of AP Images)

    (Photo courtesy of AP Images)

    Getting arrested would not be automatic for those caught with small amounts of marijuana under a bill just approved by a Philadelphia City Council committee.

    The city would save $4 million a year if police ticketed people with less than an ounce of marijuana rather than going through a time-consuming arrest process, said Councilman Jim Kenney, who introduced the bill.

    “We had 4,200 arrests last year for small amounts of marijuana. None of those 4,200 were processed by the district attorney, they were diverted, sent to school and paid a fine,” he said Monday during a hearing before a City Council committee. “Seventeen-thousand police hours were spent off the street processing those with small amounts of marijuana … 2,100 eight-hour shifts were lost.”

    Paul Messing, an attorney from American Civil Liberties Union, said Philadelphia isn’t the only place where the change is being considered.

    “Washington, D.C., just last week passed a new law saying possession of small amounts of marijuana will be a civil code violation that carries a $25 fine,” Messing said.

    In neighboring Montgomery County, police don’t arrest for small amounts of weed either.

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