Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel–Obama's Former Chief of Staff–Backs Marijuana Decriminalization

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel voiced his support today for decriminalizing the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, reports Reuters: 

Under the proposed ordinance, to be voted on by the city council later this month, police officers in the nation's third-largest city would be able to issue a written violation for possession of 15 grams or less.

Chicago Police Department statistics indicate that last year there were 18,298 arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, according to a statement from the mayor's office. Each case involves approximately four officers—two arresting and two transporting officers—and places an additional burden on the Cook County court and jail system, the statement said.

"These arrests tied up more than 45,000 police hours," Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in the mayor's office statement. "The new ordinance nearly cuts that time in half, which equals an approximate $1 million in savings, while freeing up cops to address more serious crime."

Currently, those caught with small amounts of the drug could face up to six months in jail. The aldermen's original ordinance set the limit at 10 grams.

When the ordinance was first introduced last year, Emanuel, who was President Barack Obama's first White House chief of staff, had said he would ask the police to do an analysis to see if the reform would make sense.

"The result is an ordinance that allows us to observe the law, while reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana—ultimately freeing up police officers for the street," Emanuel said.

In other words: "We can't win the drug war, but we can keep fleecing people who use politically unpopular substances." 

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  1. he would ask the police to do an analysis to see if the reform would make sense.

    Gosh, the suspense is killing me. Whatever will the police say?

    1. I imagine that depends on how the money is split.

  2. “These arrests tied up more than 45,000 police hours,” Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in the mayor’s office statement.

    You, as police policy maker, are choosing now to focus resources on those easy arrests instead of “freeing up cops to address more serious crime.” It sounds like maybe, just maybe, your limited resources should go to the serious crime first, without needing an ordinance.

    1. That’s a good point. It’s not like all 45,000 police hours dedicated to small-time pot busts were cops just walking down the street and seeing someone puffing on a joint. No, they worked to get these arrests. The Superintendent could simply say, “yeah, any ongoing investigations which require concerted efforts by officers shall be deprioritized. “

  3. How does Rahm feel about decriminalizing firearm possession?

  4. So now it’ll only take two officers 45 minutes each to write up a whole entire ticket?

  5. In other words: “We can’t win the drug war, but we can keep fleecing people who use politically unpopular substances.”

    The essence of the Chigaco style: Keep things just illegal enough to guarantee a river of revenue to City Hall.

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