A bill decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in Philadelphia now has Mayor Michael Nutter's support, he announced at a press conference this afternoon.
"Over time, attitudes about marijuana have changed dramatically," Mayor Michael Nutter said, saying that if it is passed by City Council, he will sign a bill decriminalizing marijuana.
Marijuana will still be illegal, Nutter stressed.
If passed, the amended bill introduced to City Council by Councilman Jim Kenney, will take effect Oct. 20.
The amended law states:
-A person found in possession of a "small amount of marijuana" -- up to or equal to 30 grams or one ounce -- will get a $25 fine and a notice of violation.
-A person found smoking a small amount of marijuana (an ounce or less) will get a $100 fine or have to perform nine hours of community service and a notice of violation.
-Police will still confiscate any marijuana they find.
-Notices of violation will be processed through the court system like any other violation.
N.A. Poe, a long-time local marijuana activist, called the decision a win.
"Public smoking at $100, I think that's very reasonable, and under an ounce for $25 - it's an amazing, amazing thing," Poe said. "I hope people respect the new regulations. We're not trying to decriminalize marijuana in Philly so we can turn Philly into Denver ... we're just trying to keep the handcuffs off people for pot."
Councilman Kenney said the bill is intended to decrease the racial disparity in marijuana arrests. Blacks account for 83 percent of marijuana arrests in Philadelphia although usage is believed to be equal between races.
Kenney also said he doesn't think "youthful indiscretions" should lead to long-term repercussions.
"Where a young person who is asked to empty their pockets and knows that they have in there two joints, knows that they're not going to be handcuffed, transported, photographed and fingerprinted, then that interaction between that officer and that citizen becomes safer," Kenney said.