City Councilman Jim Kenney. Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro
If it's less than an ounce, City Councilman Jim Kenney thinks you shouldn't be arrested.
"You should go through some penalty," said Councilman at-large Kenney. "Some fine, some penalty, some education. It's nice to have you stop your behavior, but being arrested to me is still a little bit over the top."
Kenney announced Tuesday that he will introduce legislation at Thursday's City Council meeting, the first of the new year, which would end the requirement to arrest offenders for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Under Kenney's legislation, the offender would still be sent to the District Attorney's “Small Amount of Marijuana” program, which includes a 3-hour drug abuse class and a $300 fine, but they just wouldn't be arrested. They would be issued a summons and sent on their merry way.
"The District Attorney decided and rightfully so not to prosecute cases of small amounts of marijuana," he said. "He takes them to a diversionary program he takes them to class and they pay a fine. At the end of that period they can have their record expunged, which is sensible."
"The question then begs," he added, "Why are we arresting them in the first place?"
He said the police recorded 4,200 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, and of those 563 were juveniles.
He said the "small amount" arrests costs the city about $3 million a year, and wastes about 17,000 police hours.
Not to mention that 82 percent of the 4,200 offenders arrested were African American.
"It doesn't mean other people aren't selling reefer, too," he said. "But they're the ones getting caught."
Kenney said the reasons not to arrest outweigh the reasons to arrest and pointed to Montgomery County which does not arrest for possession of small amounts of pot.
"If Montgomery County can do it," he said, "Then why can't we?"
Would he ever petition the governor to decriminalize marijuana?
"That's not going to happen," he said. "Look. I respect the governor, he's a Republican, he's a former prosecutor, it's probably not in his mindset to do something like that."