Friday, June 15, 2012

Tickets instead of jail for cannabis in Chicago?

I'll believe it after it happens. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, after months of nudging from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, has finally decided to do something about the massive costs associated with arresting people for cannabis possession in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reports.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is throwing his support behind a plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
Under the proposed ordinance, police officers will have the discretion to issue tickets with fines ranging from $100 to $500 for people carrying 15 grams or less of pot. /...
Currently people caught in possession face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.
Chicago Police Department statistics indicate that last year there were 18,298 arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis, according to 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.
During my activist days at the Capitol in Springfield, I was sometimes referred to as "that libertarian pothead". Apparently, times have changed. Imagine Rahm's reaction if someone were to call him a pothead because he wants reforms to the expensive, failing drug war. Probably just two words.

As usual, the Chicago Reader comes through with more news on the topic. Ben Joravsky.
Even though the ordinance doesn't go far enough—legalize the stuff already!
And even though Mayor Emanuel probably only did it to snatch the issue from Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle . . .
And even though it really was incredibly wimpy for him to fly off to Prague before releasing the press release . . .
And even though he only got the stones to take this stand after New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg—his personal hero—took it first . . .
And even though the ordinance allows police to continue arresting people for small amounts of possession . . .
This is an important first step toward saner marijuana laws.
Mick Dumke.
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.

During the first five months of the year, Chicago police made 8,960 arrests for low-level marijuana possession, tying up more than 175 officer hours a day. These busts have cost taxpayers more than $22 million.
Mick Dumke again.
New York isn't the only place where officials are openly discussing reforms to marijuana laws: Rhode Island is about to decriminalize possession, becoming the 15th state to do so, while voters in Colorado and Washington state will weigh in on legalization proposals this fall.
Democrat Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle deserves more credit for this than Mayor Emanuel does. Illinois could use some Ron Paul type Republicans to help this reform along.

Steve Rhodes take at the Beachwood Reporter.
1. Well, it's not exactly decriminalization; Rahm's proposal has him collecting $150 to $500 from every schnook caught with 15 grams or less. Costly pot prosecutions become profitable ticket-writing. Next: Get nabbed twice and they boot your bong. 
This from an old post deserves repeating.

Eric Zorn pointed out a discussion about drug policies that was interesting. From his Change of Subject.
Chicago Newsroom CAN TV: Host Ken Davis with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader. They review Tuesday's primary results and discuss the decriminalization of marijuana possession because of the disproportionate number of arrests and convictions of minorities in Cook County. 

Zorn highlighted this quote from Preckwinkle:
I'm 65 years old. I'm going to run for reelection to this job. I don't have any other ambitions. So I can say what I believe is right. And what I believe is right is that our drug policies are crazy. And that what we are doing is destroying the lives of of our kids-- our very young people --in the African-American community. And spending an Incredible amount of money on a stupid policy. Which is incarcerating kids for marijuana offenses....We have five percent of the world's population -- 313 million people -- we have twenty-five percent of the people in prison or jail. Twenty five percent. One quarter of the people in the world in prison or jail are in prison or jail in the United States. So unless you think that the people in America are somehow innately more inclined to be criminals than the people in all of the rest of the world, we're doing something stupid and wrongheaded and just incredibly destructive to ourselves, and that begins with our drug policies.

1 comment:

  1. o say someone gets arrested with 8 grams of pot. Here are the options. Have a police officer spend hours arresting, processing, and helping to convict said person. Pay the salary of a court appointed attorney, a judge, a bailiff and a court reporter to maybe convict him. United Center tickets Cheap Put the offender in a Cook County jail, where the cost of incarceration for a months long stint for maybe $10,000. Release him once he's made a large friend network among the criminal element.