The Mayor of Philadelphia has agreed to endorse legislation that decriminalizes the possession and public consumption of marijuana, making it one of the largest American cities to turn back punitive drug laws.
The bill, which Mayor Michael Nutter said he will endorse, was proposed by the city council, and – with the latest amendments – would levy fines of $25 on people caught possessing small amounts of the drug, and $100 for smoking it in public. In neither case would an offender face a criminal charge or arrest.
“This is about how we deal with penalties in that regard. And there will be penalties. There’s a consequence to people violating the law,” Nutter told reporters on Monday. The bill will be voted on next week, then sent to the mayor for his signature.
The bill’s sponsor, City Council member Jim Kenney (d), wanted to take marijuana possession out of the criminal realm and make it a non-civil offense.
“There’s no more handcuffs, no more bookings, no more criminal record. Police will not have to leave their posts and go to the station house to deal with this,” said Kenney to Policy.Mic. Fines can also be waived by agreeing to perform public service.
Kenney says this plan will keep 4,000 people from being arrested each year, and will save the Philadelphia Police Department about $4 million a year.