A Philadelphia City Councilman wants to dramatically scale back the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The move comes after another piece of legislation stalled.
Councilman Jim Kenney has been trying to decriminalize marijuana possession, at least for small amounts, but his bill is stuck. So now he’s proposing slashing the current fine of up to $500 to just $25.
“We’ve been advised by pretty competent legal [experts] we can go an additional direction of a civil penalty rather than a criminal charge and the police if they are meaning what they say, that they don’t want to lock anybody up, but they are saying the criminal procedures of the courts require them do so,” Kenney said Thursday. “If we give them another vehicle not to lock somebody up, they will do that and avoid 5,000 arrests a year in Philadelphia.”
Kenney said implementing his bill could save police 17,000 hours of time each year that’s now spent booking, photographing and fingerprinting suspects arrested for possession.
That time would be better spent fighting real crime, he said.
District Attorney Seth Williams already sends first-time defendants caught with small amounts of marijuana into a diversionary program with an opportunity to expunge their record if they don’t reoffend.