In an effort to raise city revenue, save money and free up police to pursue more serious crimes, Wednesday, the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana! The vote was 43 to 3, and backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“I don’t want to be paying a police officer time and a half to sit in a courtroom for four hours on something that 80 to 90 per cent of the time will be thrown out, and everybody – both the person arrested, the police officer, and the judge – know the outcome. I want them on the street, dealing with gangbangers and gun violence,” said Emanuel.
Under the new ordinance, introduced last November by Alderman Danny Solis, officers have an option of issuing tickets ranging from $250 to $500 for possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less. That’s quite a departure from the current punishment of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. The new rules go into effect on August 4.
Anyone caught smoking in public or possessing weed less than 1,000 feet away from a school or park still risks arrests, however. Kids under the age of 17 and people caught without proper identification are also subject to arrest. Chicago police officers are expected to undergo training on the new policy in the next two weeks.
In Chicago there were 18,298 arrests for possession of weed last year. Those arrests accounted for more than 45,000 police hours. Police stats indicate that each case required four officers to arrest and transport the offenders. City Council member Alderman Edward Burke, who supported the ordinance, hopes the new policy will address the problem of racial bias in Chi-town’s current drug laws. He pointed out that 16,000 of those more than 18K total arrests were African Americans.
Another City Council member, Alderman Joe Moore, said, “African-Americans account for 78 per cent of those arrested, 89 per cent of those convicted, and 92 percent of those jailed for low-level marijuana possession. That is simply criminal.”
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