Philadelphia City Council has approved a bill that lessens the penalty for those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana to a fine.
Councilman Jim Kenney authored the measure that calls for a $25 fine for those holding small amounts of pot and a $125 fine for an offender caught smoking weed in public while holding less than an ounce.
The change will save police the effort of booking offenders and keep those caught with the substance from having a criminal record, Kenney said.
In an average year, Kenney said, that involves “4,200 people — 73 percent of those people who never had any contact with the criminal justice system prior to being stopped for the possession of marijuana.”
Saying that marijuana is no worse than using alcohol, Kenney said he hopes, “some time in our country, hopefully while I’m alive, it will be legalized.”
It will take about a month for the legislation to take effect.
Kenney said city police are offering their cooperation.
“What happens going forward is the police department begins to issue directives and sets up the program along with the court to enforce what we intended in the law,” he said.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey “called me last week that he was committed to making this work in our image and the way that we envision it, and I take him at his word,” Kenney said.
Mayor Michael Nutter has said he would sign the bill into law.