Chicago City Council Lowers Penalties for Possession of Marijuana

On behalf of Law Office of Steven Haney posted in Drug Possession on Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In late June 2012, the Chicago City Council voted 43-3 to approve a city ordinance that changes the possession of small amounts of marijuana from a crime punishable by arrest to one punishable by a ticket. Sponsored by Alderman Danny Solis, the ordinance will subject people in possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less to a fine of between $250 and $500.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Chicago city officials gave several reasons for the ordinance change, including a recent rise in violent crime and a way for the city to increase revenues by millions of dollars.

Compared the same period in 2011, Chicago’s murder rate, according to the Union-Tribune, is up nearly 50 percent this year. And, the change in the city ordinance would allow more time for officers to attend to neighborhoods with the highest murder rates.

Arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana consumes a lot of time, including the actual arrest, booking and paper work. In contrast, writing a ticket for possession of a small amount of marijuana takes a relatively short period, freeing up officers to continue their work on the street. According to Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the new ordinance will free up approximately 22,000 man hours over the course of a year, which would have otherwise been used for arresting people for small amounts of marijuana.

Further, Alderman Solis estimates that the city stands to gain approximately $7 million per year in revenue because of the new fine.

However, the new ordinance only applies to Chicago. People charged with possession of marijuana in out-state Illinois or any of the suburbs will face stiff penalties, even for the possession of a small amount of marijuana. While possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, the punishment could still involve jail time.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune “Chicago OKs tickets for small amounts of marijuana,” Don Babwin, Associated Press, June 27, 2012