If Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel gets his way, getting caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana would carry a fine, not jail time. The proposed fine would range between $100 to $500. The current law states that those caught with any amount of marijuana face at least a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $1,500 fine.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, Mayor Emanuel’s press release stated that the reform “allows us to observe the law while reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana – ultimately freeing up police officers for the street.”
“My gut tells me police officers are going to be more likely to enforce the law if it’s simple,” Rahm Emanuel said. “Obviously, writing a citation is simpler for the officer than having to go through the lengthy, cumbersome process of a misdemeanor arrest.”
Decriminalizing marijuana possession is long overdue in Chicago, and Illinois as a whole. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The city saw more than 18,000 arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis last year. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says that tied up more than 45,000 police hours and moving to a ticket system would cut that in half.”
According to the Chicago Reader, “African-Americans currently account for 78 percent of those arrested, 89 percent of those convicted, and 92 percent of those jailed for low-level possession.”
The Chicago Sun Times stated the following facts, “In 2011, Chicago Police officers made 18,298 arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. The West Side’s predominantly African-American 28th Ward led the city with 12,270 arrests. On the lower end of the spectrum, the North Side’s mostly white 32nd and 43rd wards had 719 and 529 arrests respectively during that time. DePaul University straddles both wards. Seven other black wards on the South and West sides – the 15th, 16th, 17th, 20th, 24th, 34th and 37th – each recorded more than 7,000 arrests over the decade.”
The following states have decriminalized possession of marijuana – Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon. However, I would like to point out that in states like Oregon, which was the first to decriminalize in America, possession still carries a hefty fine and the federally mandated loss of your license. Let’s keep fighting until we end marijuana prohibition altogether, in Chicago, and beyond!