Aldermen weigh decriminalizing small amounts of pot
Under a proposal Ald. Daniel Solis, 25th, will introduce at next week’s City Council meeting, people caught in Chicago with 10 grams or less of marijuana would get a $200 ticket, and up to 10 hours of community service.
Appearing at a news conference with Solis and other aldermen, Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey said several states have already decriminalized small amounts of cannabis.
Chicago police make about 23,000 arrests each year for marijuana possession, which is currently a class b misdemeanor in the city punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,500 fine, Fritchey said. Police and court personnel get tied up dealing with those arrestees, he said. “It is not time to act tough on crime, it is (time) to be smart on crime. We need our resources spent somewhere else,” Fritchey said.
Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th, pointed out people arrested for marijuana possession are disproportionately minorities, who now end up with arrests on their criminal records even though the vast majority of the cases are thrown out of Cook County court.
“I had the opportunity to go to Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, and I think I got contact high being at all those events,” Burnett said. “Police there, everything. It wasn’t predominantly African American, and guess what? No one got arrested at those events. If that was an African American event, the jails would probably be filled up. I think it’s almost a discrimination issue.”
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has mentioned the possibility of issuing tickets for marijuana possession as a way to keep his officers on the streets rather than tying them up processing people.
Solis said he believes members of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration “think it makes sense.”
“They haven’t given us any indication, strong indication, they would support it, but I think enough is enough,” Solis said.
Marijuana possession is already a ticketable offense in several suburbs and in areas of Cook County patrolled by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.