Chicago May Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

Next week Chicago Alderman Daniel Solis plans to introduce an ordinance that would allow police to cite people caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana instead of arresting them. Under state law, possessing 10 grams (about one-third of an ounce) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Solis' proposal, which is supported by several of his colleagues, would make it a citable offense punishable by a $200 fine and up to 10 hours of community service. He and his allies, who include Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, argue that it will free up police resources to target serious crimes while raising some money for the city. They also note that blacks are much more likely to be busted for marijuana possession than whites (even though survey data indicate they are no more likely to smoke pot) and that, even when the charges are dismissed (as they typically are) an arrest record hurts people's job prospects.

Two years ago Cook County adopted a no-arrest policy for marijuana possession in unincorporated areas patrolled by the county sheriff's department. The Chicago suburbs of Evanston, Aurora, Skokie, Sugar Grove, Yorkville, and Carpentersville likewise treat pot possession as a citable offense. The Chicago Tribune reports that Fritchey "said several states have already decriminalized small amounts of cannabis." A dozen states have eliminated the possibility of jail for such offenses, which is generally what is meant by marijuana "decriminalization" in this country. It is almost certainly what Barack Obama had in mind when, as an Illinois legislator running for the U.S. Senate in 2004, he said, "We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws." But the ambiguity of the term, which could refer to anything from lighter penalties for simple possession to full legalization, may help explain why he renounced that position when he was running for president.

Obama is not the only Illinois politician who can't seem to decide where he stands on penalties for marijuana possession. The Chicago Sun-Times notes that former Mayor Richard Daley "embraced the idea of issuing tickets for minor pot violations in 2004, only to ridicule the County Board five years later for voting to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana." Here is what Daley said in 2009:

People say you cannot smoke....They said, "Please don't smoke." Now, everybody's saying, "Let's all smoke marijuana." After a while, you wonder where America is going.

You really do. The Sun-Times says Chicago's current mayor (and Obama's former chief of staff), Rahm Emanuel, "refused to take a position on the issue." It is not a hopeful sign that as a congressman Emanuel positioned himself to the right of the Bush administration on drug policy. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Mike G||

    Hmm, house and feed people, or extort $200 from them? Yeah, I see Rahm having to think long and hard about that one.

  • ||

    Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, argue that it will free up police resources to target serious crimes while raising some money for the city.

    In other words, this will free up more police time for other, more lucrative, forms of extortion.

  • ||

    I emailed my alderman this morning, offering several reasons why he should support the proposed decriminalization and received a three-word response: "I agree completely." It's nice to have a Chicago politician elicit a response from me other than rage.

  • ||

    Don't worry, it's unlikely that this will ever happen again and rage will be the norm the next go around.

  • ||

    He and his allies, who include Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, argue that it will free up police resources to target serious crimes while raising some money for the city.

    Nope, can't do that! It would totally fuck up the Biden Meme: "If we don't pass the Jobs Bill everybody will be raped raped raped!!!!"

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Hopefully Chi-town can use a citation for marijuana possession as an excuse to refuse issuing a gun permit.

  • octothorpe||

    The Illinois legislature also handed Chicago the right to install $peed camera$,for the children of course. The town should be rolling in dough soon.

  • Margaret ||

    This is real a good news.

  • Reece||

    A step closer to legalization. It only makes sense. People have every right to experiment with their own consciousness, heal themselves, and cultivate this beneficial crop. Do your own research on how positive this plant can be for a nation. Thomas Jefferson himself said, "Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country." George Washington said, "Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere." Hemp is the fiber of the plant that can be used to create housing, plastic, paper, clothes, and many other textiles. The seed of the plant can feed the world (as it's said to hold all nutritional value required for life). We can power our cars with the oil from the cannabis bud!

    The possibilities are endless, and we're holding them back because of cannabis deemed a "demon plant that mexicans and blacks use before raping white women" in the 1927 when it was made illegal. It's 2011, and we know better at this point. Cannabis is harmless, and when smoked it is the person's responsibility to act responsibly just as it is with alcohol. Let's not forget that cannabis has been said to be the most medicinal plant on this planet. It has been shown to kill cancer cells! ---> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVVRQK53wYs

    End the madness and legalize this beneficial plant. I'll leave some facts below here

    US Drug Related Annual Deaths (estimates):
    Tobacco: 500,000 people
    Alcohol: 80,000 people
    Prescription Drugs: 25,000 people
    Cannabis (marijuana): 0

    Yes! That means 0 overdoses per year from cannabis. It is literally impossible to overdose smoking cannabis.

  • Anon||

    If this comment was displayed for 24 hours on all television channels across the world, maybe a change would be made. Hopefully. One day.

  • Anon||

    wow, I didn't realize how much of an idiot Daley is until now.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement