Chicago Mayor Backs Decriminalizing Marijuana

Chicago mayor backs marijuana decriminalization

A plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Chicago has earned the backing of mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

The plan, which still needs to be passed by Chicago’s city council, would mean people carrying 15 grams of pot or less would be let off with a fine, the Chicago Sun Times reported. As the law currently stands, people caught with even small amounts of the drug can face up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.

Writing tickets instead of throwing offenders in jail, “allows us to observe the law while reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana — ultimately freeing up police officers for the street,” Emanuel was quoted in the Sun Times.

Chicago Police had been busy with pot offenders, making 18,298 arrests for less than 10 grams in 2011. The Sun Times followed the cases and found that for every 10 misdemeanor cases that went to court between 2006 and 2010, nine were dropped.

Emanuel said saving money is one of the main reasons he is backing the decriminalization effort, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“When the ordinance was first introduced, I asked the Chicago Police Department to do a thorough analysis to determine if this reform balanced public safety and common-sense rules that save taxpayer dollars to reinvest in putting more officers on the street,” he said in a statement. “The result is an ordinance that allows us to observe the law, while reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana — ultimately freeing up police officers for the street.”

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy backed Emanuel’s assertion, saying the new ordinance would save more than 20,000 hours of police time, which equates $1 million in savings.

“I am pleased that Mayor Emanuel has taken this step to address this important issue,” Solis said in a statement. “One of the most significant results of this ordinance is that it will allow our police officers to spend more time out policing our neighborhoods and less time processing minor offenses and filling out paperwork. Passing this ordinance will be a major victory in promoting safe neighborhoods and reducing crime.”