Marijuana Decriminalization in Chicago

Chicago to Decriminalize Marijuana

The Chicago City Council passed — by a vote of 43 to 2 — an ordinance today that will decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. People caught with less than half an ounce of marijuana may now be given a ticket rather than be arrested. The fine will be $250 at first, and more for subsequent tickets. People caught smoking on school grounds or in public will still be arrested, as will those without an ID or under age 17.

This is a positive move. Although, as Ethan says:

But the devil is very much in the details as to whether the new ordinance will ultimately do more good than harm. The fine of $250, and possibly more, is excessive — and may result in undue hardship for young and poor people without the resources to pay. Police will retain the legal authority to arrest rather than ticket people for marijuana possession, thereby allowing for the perpetuation of racial bias in enforcing the state’s marijuana laws. More people may be stopped and charged with marijuana possession offenses than before. And the mayor and police chief’s insistence that their proposal “is not decriminalization” is less than reassuring.

Remember that NYC is also decriminalized for possession of small amounts not in public view…

I think the one positive thing in all of this is that the Mayor and the City Council felt that they could enact a provision that would at least seem to lessen the penalties for marijuana without fear of political fallout. That bodes well for the future.

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