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OKC City Council approves proposal reducing marijuana possession penalty

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City council has approved a proposal reducing the penalty for marijuana possession.

The change in ordinance was proposed by Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty. It lowers the maximum fine for simple possession of marijuana to a $400 maximum.

"So what this does is it now allows the officers to write a citation in the field and release that individual in the field. They can pay the fine. They can come to court to pay the fine. They can come to court and place a bond but it’s not a court of record," Chief Citty said. "This keeps officers from really automatically putting somebody in jail, like they did previously. Previously, possession of marijuana…you were booked into jail."

Under the current ordinance, offenders are arrested and can face a $1,200 fine and six months in jail.

"I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana. This is not about legalizing it. This is about still holding people accountable for having it," Citty said. "We still want to hold people accountable for it. They just don’t need to go to jail. Jail does not make things better."

The council also discussed amendments brought forth on Tuesday, including language that would assure the proposal would align with State 788 which legalized medical marijuana.

"What we’ve included is that in our ordinance is that if they don’t have their license in our ordinance if they don’t have that license on their person even though they said they may have in possession of marijuana, that they would still be cited," Citty said during the council meeting.

Ward 7 councilman Lee Cooper, Jr. questioned, "Can a person be cited in the same stop for possession of marijuana and also paraphernalia? Which would then drive that fine up substantially?"

"It’s one of those things where there’s a possibility that could be written two tickets but also, a judge could lower that 400 dollar fine and a judge could dismiss the fine," answered Citty.

According to Citty, offenders could still face jail time under a state charge if there is evidence he or she intended to distribute drugs.

Allie Shinn, Deputy Director of the ACLU, spoke at the council meeting Tuesday in favor of the proposal.

"What Chief Citty and the city council have done today is said, it’s time to really think about our marijuana policy and move into the future that the country is moving toward," Shinn told News 4. "This is the path of least resistance at this point. The people of Oklahoma and their adoption of State Question 780 and their most recent adoption of State Question 788 have said over and over again, listen…we want reform."

The new ordinance goes into effect on October 26.