SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Fewer people are being arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana in Springfield following the city council's decision to decriminalize the drug.

The ordinance passed in 2009 established new protocol for people who were found with less than 2.5 grams of marijuana. Instead of facing a misdemeanor charge that included a $1,500 fine, people holding small amounts of pot in Springfield are ticketed and fined $300.

"The initial reason was to take away the stigma from people who would have a record for inconsequential amounts of marijuana," said Alderman Gail Simpson, who's now running for mayor.

Last year, Springfield police made 101 arrests for possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana, down nearly 71 percent from the 343 arrests in 2009, The State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/1szslhy ) reported. Throughout a four-year period, from 2010 to 2014, there were 465 arrests for small amounts of marijuana in Springfield, according to city data.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel encouraged state lawmakers this week to lessen punishments for marijuana possession and small amounts of any controlled substance. Police and prosecutors would be able to focus on more serious crimes and save taxpayer money, he said, if the state makes the possession of less than 15 grams of pot a ticketable offense and the possession of less than a gram of a controlled substance a misdemeanor.


Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com