Drug Policy

Chicago City Council Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana, 43-2


The Chicago City Council voted 43-2 today to decriminalize marijuana, reports Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The group released this statement in anticipation of today's vote: 

"I expect the City Council to show great leadership by decriminalizing marijuana possession today," said former assistant state's attorney of Cook County Jim Gierach. "As a prosecutor, I've seen first hand that our marijuana laws aren't working. This proposal shows that our leaders here in Chicago realize that focusing on this nonviolent crime is not only costing us tax precious dollars, it's costing precious lives."

The proposal already had support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, local police, and a majority of the 50 city council members before Gierach started his petition. But Gierach hopes the petition shows that there is public support for reforming drug laws.

The Chicago Justice Project, meanwhile, looks at some of the issues that will persist even with decriminalization in place. Namely, the fact that cops will get to decide for themselves whether to ticket or arrest: 

The hobgoblin of policing is the ability of police officers to decide whom to arrest, or ticket, and whom to allow to go on their way without any kind of sanction.  While I applaud the work of advocates who have toiled behind the scenes to get us to where we are, the reality is that the ability of officers to invoke either sanction is troubling.  Why?  Because of the racial divides that still exist in this city and the propensity of police officers to make race based decisions.   Even when officers do not make decisions based on race, there is going to be a feeling in communities of color that the offices are in fact making a decision strictly based on race.   This law may just backfire on the police and serve to widen the gap between minority communities and the CPD as their use of discretion, rightly or wrongly, is interpreted as being used to let whites off with tickets while black and brown people get arrested.

Emanuel announced his support for decriminalization on June 15. The new policy would decriminalize possession up to 15 grams. Getting caught with less than that amount gets you a $500 or less fine. Getting caught with more could be a felony. 

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  1. Chicago has 50 city council members? I can only imagine what special hell meetings must be like with 50 b-list politicians mugging it up.

    1. Meh, they’re usually just multi-hour mayor fellatio sessions.

      1. That’s what I mean. SOP for city councils is that every idiot has to make a statement on every issue, even though votes are usually lopsided as hell.

    2. They only have thirty-something political townships. Where are the rest of the council members coming from?

        1. The aldermen are representing the political townships, right?

          1. They come from the planet Aldermaan. The townships, villages, cities, and underground enclaves have nothing to do with it.

            1. Impossible; Aldermaan is a peaceful planet, and this is Chicago we’re talking about.

            2. I thought Aldermaan was destroyed. Like a million corrupt voices crying out “bribe me” and then suddenly silenced.

              1. No, they had Springfieldooine destroyed instead.

                1. this shit has me in tears. A+

          2. Are you thinking of Cook County? There’s only Chicago in Chicago; aldermen represent city wards.

            1. Yes, I am referring to Cook County as a whole.

            2. I left him in his ignorance in order to make a joke. Alderman serve as city government representatives. Cook County has a county commission that isn’t called that.

              1. I’m not pretending to know anything about Chicago; that why I asked. I mean, why would I know anything about a place that eats the abomination that is deep dish?

                Of course, you’d know all about it, you tasteless goon.

                1. I’m not pretending to know anything about Chicago; that why I asked. I mean, why would I know anything about a place that eats the abomination that is deep dish?

                  because its the best pizza on the planet you philistine!!!

                  1. See? ChicagoTom knows.

          3. There are 50 wards in Chicago. Each alderman represents one ward.

            All are within the city limits

      1. Councilmen-at-large.

      2. Councilmen at-large.

        1. I’m not sure you’re the one to pick on their weight.

          1. I’m sure it’s just that they are big-boned.

    3. Chicago has 50 city council members?

      I know. I was like “only fifty?”

    4. Twenty of the council members have already passed on, they are just their to represent the dead people that vote.

  2. Getting caught with less than that amount gets you a $500 or less fine.

    I never understood how only a fine is “decriminalizing.” If it’s no longer a crime, why are you being fined?

    And it still leaves intact simple possession as “probable” cause for police harassment.

    I’m not complaining, this is a step int he right direction, but still a baby step at best.

    1. I agree. Speeding is still a crime isn’t it?

      1. Not usually, no.

      2. It’s not considered a criminal offense, but rather a civil violation.

        1. Not in NV. It’s considered misdemeanor. If a judge really wanted to, they could sentence a speed, red light runner, etc. to 6 months and $1000

    2. It’s not. It’s continuing a revenue stream while removing the costs that were previously involved.

      1. And amazingly, still better public policy than the previous one.

      2. It’s actually INCREASING a revenue stream. Now the crime will be not paying an outrageous fine. One way to avoid jury nullification, I guess.

      3. It’s not. It’s continuing a revenue stream while removing the costs that were previously involved.

        The sad part of it is that under the old rules, 95% of misdemeanor possession charges got dismissed in court. Now the fines will be a revenue stream.

        True story, a couple buddies and I were smoking a bowl under lower wacker Dr one day. Two bike cops pull up and they take our names and search us. The bowl happened to be in one of my friends hands at the time so he got the citation and court date for possession, not the other two.

        The other two of us offer to pay the fine for him since he got shafted.

        Turns out, the court date on the citation was a sunday. When he went to court the Friday before the listed court date, the clerk had no record of it. She said come again monday. Monday same thing no record. Clerk said must be some mixup. Never heard anything about it again.

        One of the cops was pretty cool and the other more of a hard ass– i suspect the cool one did something on purpose to cause the mixup, but Ill never know for sure.

        1. good anecdote (i like anecdotes, even though the bigorati go nuts when i use them)…

          fwiw, even in states that have decrim’d and/or passed medical MJ, there is somewhat of a bright line drawn between possession and smoking in public

          in my state, it’s illegal to openly smoke your medical mj

          the prevailing attitude is that “we don’t care if you smoke it, just be discreet”.

          i think we are on a gradual slope towards outright legalization (in some states before others), and one of the strongest hurdles is this – smoking in public

          there are a lot of people who would be ok with decrim or outright legalization but don’t want to see it/smell it in the city park when they take their kid there for picnic or whatever.

          1. But they’re often consistent, because many of them don’t want to smell even the slightest hint of *tobacco* anywhere in public.

            Soon the biggest objection to MJ legalization is that it’s a gateway drug to tobacco.

    3. Are you saying this is all about revenue, and not common sense? I can’t believe it.

      1. those aren’t mutually exclusive.

        in any busy district i have worked, street cops generally don’t want to waste time with mj arrests (unless it’s mass quantity).

        the # of people that are let go with a verbal warning are substantial and generally don’t make the stats (i had one not too long ago, where i actually documented the verbal warning, and put the MJ into evidence ‘for disposal’ and it was approved by my supervisor. iow, official policy is that you can issue verbal warnings for mj here in my dept, even though it is still a “crime”)

        my experience is that many small podunk town cops with not a lot to do are more likely to get off on doing petty offenses. iow, they are bored, so they are more likely to take mj seriously

        but even that varies. my first agency, my police chief told me straight to my face (4 full time officer agency) that “I don’t care what people are smoking in the privacy of their homes, we got better things to do than harass people for pot. they aren’t harming anybody”)… this was the police chief.

        even here, where it is technically crim, it is effectively decrim. seattle city council even passed a resolution making pot a low priority and basically telling cops they don’t care

        in college, i had a couple of friends caught with some bud, and the cops didn’t do anything. the cops told the kid to empty the baggie on the ground and grind it into the dirt.

        1. but sarcasmic is correct, IF the guys were total assmunches towards the cops, likely they would have been charged.

          yes, officers have discretion, and yes, it benefits one to be respectful.

          in a ‘perfect world’ that might not be the case, but in the real world, politeness and civility have positive ramifications, and that’s true with police encounters as well

    4. I never understood how only a fine is “decriminalizing.” If it’s no longer a crime, why are you being fined?

      In ye olden dayes, crimes are what you got locked up for. Civil violations were punishable only with a fine. By removing the jail term from the punishment options, they decriminalized it.

      1. Ah, thank you Lawyerman!

        1. Your check had better be in the mail.

          1. No, man… you just got REVERSE PRO BONO‘D!

    5. Well, to their credit they said “decriminalize”, not “uncriminalize” or “legalize”.

      “De-” can mean “less” or “reduced.” Such as “de-escalation” or “decaffeinated” (which does not mean caffeine-free).

    6. you are joking right?

      decriminalizing means exactly what it says – it is not a crime.

      if you lose a lawsuit, you pay $$$. if you are cited with a civil infraction, you pay $$$

      you can’t get jail time for losing a lawsuit, because it’s not a crime

      this is pretty basic stuff.

      note that civil infractions also have a lower standard of evidence in court, and there is no right to a jury trial, and there is no jeopardy

      1. The reporter is calling it decriminalization, the city did not use that language.

  3. Unless the policy was changed at the last minute, it still gave police, in all cases, discretion to make an arrest. So, generally you’ll get a fine, but you sure as shit better continue to RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH!

    1. Also, getting caught actually smoking is still an arrest regardless of the amount. Fines are in cases of possession only.

      1. Also, getting caught actually smoking is still an arrest regardless of the amount.

        Or the substance.

  4. A fucking half ounce?

    1. Well, split up your purchases right after you get them, ASCII penis.

      1. You know, ASCII Penis Man scans with Secret Agent Man. For future reference.

  5. Couldn’t they get a couple of people to abstain so the vote would be 42-0?

    1. +April 20th to you

  6. OT: I’m having a devil of a time finding any fucking plumbers who will install an electric tankless water heater (no gas in my neighborhood), and the few who will want outrageous prices. Anybody know anything about this, why this would be?

    1. Gojira,

      Electric tankless water tanks are a pain because of the amount of electricity they need. We looked at one and would have had to upgrade our main box. Then you have to run power to the heater. Electricians don’t come cheap. Mix in a plumber and an electrician and you have real costs.

      Fortunately for us, we could run gas; and then only after up-sizing the line.

      1. After a little research, power draw is the problem. The one I just looked at pulls 50 amps at 240V, and requires 6 gauge wire runs. 6 ga adds up fast if you have any length at all back to the junction box, not counting any junction box requirements.

        1. I think that’s why my plumber recommended to keep the tank and use the tankless to heat the inflow into the heater I currently have.

          That way I could get away with something that uses a lot less juice, and extend the life of the one I already have.

          1. Depending on how many sources are using hot water, you can get a tanked that is almost as good. Something similar to this, A.O. Smith.

        2. About $250 for 25 feet of 4ga when I priced it. It was nearly as expensive as the heater. If I knew anything about wiring a junction box, I would’ve tried it and upgraded my little heater from 50A @ 220V to one that pulls 75A @ 220V. The 50A one can run a single shower just fine, but if anything else tries to draw hot water, it gets pretty cool.

        3. I’m looking at having a well put in at my next supervillain lair. The damn wires cost as much as the pump.

          I blame Bush.

    2. I dunno. My plumber suggested I get a cheapo electric tankless and put it in front of my hot water heater. That way the heater would basically function as a holding tank, warming the water every now and again since the water coming in wouldn’t be cold. This way the elements would last theoretically forever. Only if I ran everything at once, beyond the capacity of the tankless heater, would the tank heater really kick on.

      Told him it sounded pretty cool and that I’ll get back to him on it.

    3. probably pulls mega amps. the install price includes a panel upgrade perhaps?

    4. No idea. Never installed one meself. I would think it’s a simple matter of hooking up power, supply and outlet lines. I’m sure there’s some oddness with the power supply in that you’ll need some sort of interrupt in case of disaster. Electric should be even easier than gas because you don’t need exhaust venting and all that.

    5. Move to Latin America, and you can get a little one on all of your shower heads, no questions asked.

    6. Yeah several of them have mentioned having to upgrade the electric panel in order to run it, but shit man, $3,500? Sounds like extortion.

      I’m not doing it to save money even in the long run; I just hate running out of hot water if there’s multiple appliances running at once.

      I’m waiting for a couple of no hablas ingles guys to get back to me from Craigslist. I don’t give a damn if they have to jury-rig the thing, as long as it works.

      1. Double check that all your important docs are offsite or in the fireproof safe.

      2. It is extortion. Big electrical contractors… avoid them.

        I had one upgraded at a home I was remodeling. Picked up the box at a garage sale, bought all of the breakers, and paid a friend $200 to do it. It sure as hell was no way near $3500.

        1. But was he licensed?

          1. But was he licensed?

            More importantly, did he follow the regs for installing the box. IF you ever decide to sell your house, the inspector will find if it is up to code. Plus the fun fact that if something bad happens, like it causes a fire, your insurance company might not pay.

            1. Yes, and yes.

              1. Cheaper doesn’t always = stupid.

                1. Cheaper doesn’t always = stupid.

                  Nope, and I wasn’t implying it was. If you took it that way, mea culpa.

      3. You can also look into a hybrid system as well, like this.

      4. Let me try on more time. Look into a hybrid system. You can google A.O Smith Voltex to see what I mean.

        Spam my ass.

    7. I’ve installed one myself which wasn’t quite large enough. For anything big enough to heat enough water for more than one person at a time, it usually draws significantly higher amperage. I would’ve had to replace all the wire from the wall the heater, and rearrange my fuse box. But hooking the thing up was simple. I just had to cut the copper at the heater, sweat on a 3/4 to 1/2 adapter a short length of pipe, and a 1/2 inch threaded section. Actually I made 2 of those 1/2 inch threaded sections: 1 for the wall side and one for the heater side. Then I used hot water heater hose instead of copper from the tank to the wall.

  7. It’s the only humane thing to do. What are the citizens supposed to do during the 9 months of frozen tundra, and then the 3 warmer months that it is too windy to go outside without lead weights strapped to your body as anchors? They should have built the city underground where the climate is better.

  8. Why? Because of the racial divides that still exist in this city and the propensity of police officers to make race based decisions.

    Complete red herring.

    I know plenty of racist officers, but the majority don’t operate that way. The majority DO operate based on statistics – and if statistics show an officer MIGHT be racist, he’ll step up mj arrests on other races right away.

    Again, the majority DO operate on statistics and if the stats need padding, they’ll bust people for pot. Which is the EXACT same reason they bust today for pot.

    The hobgoblin of policing is the statistical and quota systems in place and that has not been changed.

    Decrim of mj SHOULD mean a cut in the police force. But of course, these extra FTE’s will just be redeployed onto other violations. It’s easy to step up arrests in poor communities; even if they stop arresting for pot there’s thousands of other piddling violations they can arrest for.

    1. even if they stop arresting for pot there’s thousands of other piddling violations they can arrest for.

      It is really sad how police justify their existence by going after people who have committed neither force nor fraud against another person, yet can still be fined and jailed.

      1. Real criminals are dangerous, sarcasmic. Why, an officer could get hurt. Better to beat up pot smoking teens, tase granny, and shoot dogs. It’s safer for our officers. Why do you hate the officers?

        1. Why do you hate the officers?

          Because they beat up pot smoking teens, tase granny, and shoot dogs.

      2. LIKE dui on a bicycle!!!

    2. the NCVS stats show that people commit crime disparately based on race, age, gender, etc.

      as an example, there are more women than men, but armed robberies are 90%+ committed by men.

      as heather macdonald at city journal has exhaustively documented with stats aplenty, the rate at which cops disproportionately stop people (age, race, etc.) and arrest them match the NCVS stats nearly perfectly

      if cops were racist, this wouldn’t be the case.

  9. Decrim of mj SHOULD mean a cut in the police force

    Then who will enforce the bans on the unending plethora of other things that our esteemed representatives are working hard to ban?

  10. If individual agents of the state can still decide to arrest you for something, absolutely nothing has been decriminalized here.

    1. And, of course, there’s that little *Federal* thing.

      1. please note what percentage of arrests are made under federal jurisdiction, for mere possession (on non-federal property).

        you have nearly zero chance of being arrested or prosecuted federally for possessing small amount of mj (assuming you are not on federal land), as you

        federal incarcerations are much more disproportionately drug related than local (state, county, city) cases. the feds are fucked. but they are not going after people for the piddly shit this decrim addresses

        1. I hear you, Dunphy.

          But don’t they have the *option*?

          1. i guess technically they do. drug offenses are federal , but again… apart from cases like being caught by a park ranger in a national park with bud (which would be federal jurisdiction), the feds are not taking possession cases of personal amounts of MJ and prosecuting them federally.

            again, i’m not saying it has never happened, i’m saying it almost never does

            when the feds go after piddly offenses, it’s usually agenda driven, like tommy chong, which was just a gross entrapment imo

  11. Come on, a half once, that’s weak

  12. Further thoughts:

    You could access all the data they have and it would still be incomplete. Because you will never know the number of people possessing pot the police came into contact with but did not arrest.

    I’m convinced that this “change” is only for revenue and cost-cutting. Arrest someone for pot and that officer is spending the next hour or two “in the system”. And the arrest can be fought by people with money. So the cops probably just look the other way today except in the poorer neighborhoods where arrest numbers need to be high for stat padding.

    Now with the power to ticket, they can issue lots of tickets in better neighborhoods, and probably in poorer neighborhoods too since the officers’ time can be better used on other things besides pot arrests. But I can practically guarantee that more people overall with be “caught” with pot than are “caught” today simply because of what being “caught” entails. And then we’ll be given statistics on how many more people are “caught” with pot after decrim than before, which will be used as a reason to jack up the fines even higher because of the sudden “pot epidemic”.

    Once you know the house never loses, you can see the game for what it really is.

    1. Respect his authoritah and you may get off only with a ticket.
      Disrespect his authoritah and you’re getting arrested.

    2. Rahm has been pretty clear that his primary motivation is money and police hours.

      Report on NPR said average pot arrest takes 4 hours, which means 8 cop-hours if you’re with your partner. And that 9 out of 10 ultimately get thrown out of court.

      So yeah, a fine is a major financial improvement for the city.

      1. Yes and no.

        Same shit goes on with drinking alcohol on the sidewalk. “Just” a ticket – and outrageous fine of $1000. The poor schmuck can’t come up with that scratch so then he gets arrested for non-payment. Or else he’ll have to steal to pay the fine. So the workload of the justice system ultimately increases. In government nothing succeeds better than failure.

        1. a substantial # of people are caught with pot and never even make it into ANY statistic, since it’s a verbal warning and a field release.

          i’ve personally seen this happen dozens of times just in my own agency. cop catches guy with a few buds, gives him a warning.

          these cases don’t make the stats.

          note also that as the article stated, cops supported the move to decrim.

          but yea, sarcasmic et al are correct. if you are a disrespectful assmunch, you are probably going to be more likely to get the crim vs. decrim treatment

          welcome to the real world. where being an assmunch has penalties

    3. I think you’ve got it, IF, with one addition:

      Tickets can be fixed on a routine basis by corruptocrats, while actual criminal cases are much harder. So, there’s a whole ‘nother revenue stream.

      1. No mater how cynical I get, it’s hard to keep up.

  13. i note the typical reasonoid cynicism.

    chicago decrims mj

    (should be a good thing… people here wank about going to jail for possession, which is very very difficult to do … you gotta have lots of priors etc. to get any incarceration time and with decrim, it’s just a fine and doesn’t count as a criminal record)

    and the local cops support the move to decrim

    and nearly every post has a negative reaction. iow, in the real world, this is obviously a good thing, in jurisdictions that have decrim’d in general it’s had excellent results for freedom, the local cops even supported it, and still every post is negative

    i mean jesus christ, this is a good thing, but the bitter “get off my lawn” antics are nonstop. bitch and moan about even good shit happening.

    1. I’m with you on this one Dunphy. Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sure, the politicians’ intentions are impure and Chicago won’t turn into Amsterdam II, but at least peoples’ lives need not be ruined as much and law enforcement need not waste resources for enforcement and jail time.

      One question I’m wondering and you may be the person to answer it: will these tickets for civil infractions still show up on your criminal history report?

      1. no.

        and if an employer asks “have you been convicted of a drug crime”, you can honestly answer no

        fwiw, here in WA where it is not decrim, first offense is going to be handled that way. iow, assuming the prosecutor even BOTHERs to file, the typical penalty is a small fine and a probation. when the probation is completed, it will be a continued w/o a finding iow will not show up as a conviction.

        unfortunately, at least here in WA, it is very easy to go online and search for CIVIL INFRACTIONS as well. my county and several others i have in my bookmarks, and i can go and enter a name and it will show all court actions, including civil infractions.

        but thank you for the post. the cynicism and the perfect/enemy/good thing is just so prevalent here.

        not a single person can go “cool. that’s an expansion of freedom” on the decrim thang

        1. Dunphy – You are right, this is an expansion of freedom and should be celebrated with a wee split of bubbly befitting it’s reach. More importantly, it should be celebrated for the signal it sends: major US city publicly states that pot is just not that big of a deal. Another brick out of the wall.

          Two additional points though:
          1) Terminology question: If a cop still has discretion to throw me in jail for an act, how has that act been decriminalized?

          2) When you say “in a ‘perfect world’ that might not be the case, but in the real world, politeness and civility have positive ramifications, and that’s true with police encounters as well,” that is certainly true. But what is happening here is that impoliteness and incivility result in potential arrest and a criminal record for an act that was otherwise noncriminal. And that is bullshit. If someone is a dick to me, I won’t become BFFs with them, but otherwise I understand that some people suck, and sticks and stones and all that. But because some guy works for the state the repercussions for being a dick to him can become a major hindrance to a professional life? You are advocating the criminalization of being a nonviolent asshole to an agent of the state, but not to anyone else.

          1. Let’s not forget also that it’s the President’s city, run by the President’s former closest advisor. Perhaps the next minor victory will be Obama “theoretically” supporting decriminalization like he “theoretically” supports gay marriage.

    2. i note the typical reasonoid cynicism.

      chicago decrims mj

      Chicago did NOT decrim anything. They merely gave the police discretion to write tickets instead of arrest. This is the source of the negativity. The city is basically too chicken-shit to make up its mind so they decided to just “err on the side of revenue generation.”

      Essentially they’ll have a better success rate of prosecuting people for not paying fines than for prosecuting them for possession.

      In theory it’s a slight expansion of freedom. In practice, it remains to be seen.

      1. They did technically decriminalize. They made possession less of a criminal act (de- = less). It’s significant because you won’t risk losing your job or have your hiring prospects hurt by being arrested with a drug crime on your record.

  14. Won’t matter… this attempt to assert a state right [RAAAACIST] will be preempted by federal law.

  15. freedom expands!


  16. Interestingly, the “$500 or less fine” appears to be about the same thing you’ll face if you’re caught selling foie gras.

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