Sheriff 'caught off guard' by pot proposal

July 23, 2009 8:17:01 AM PDT
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger appears to be leaning toward letting stand a measure that would allow some people caught with a small amount of marijuana to get off with just a ticket and a fine in unincorporated parts of the county.County commissioners approved the measure Tuesday. It would apply only to those unincorporated areas patrolled by the sheriff's department.

Officers would have the option of arresting a suspect on a misdemeanor charge, or, if the person is carrying less than 10 grams, they could receive a $200 ticket.

Sheriff Tom Dart said he was caught off guard by the proposal.

"Any time you're talking about legalization or downgrading, there needs to be a very thorough discussion, and it should be based on facts and analysis," Dart said.

"I think it would be a good move," said Kent Dean, criminal defense attorney. "It could save the county some money, not that the sheriff makes that many arrests of this nature relative to the municipalities."

Stroger has five days to decide whether he'll veto the measure or not.

On ABC7 Thursday morning, Stroger called it progressive discipline and an ease on overcrowded jails.

"You have a first offense, and it is really someone standing on the street smoking a marijuana cigarette, the police stop them, give them a ticket. That same person could be stopped again for a second time, the police can look back, see that they have been stopped before, and they can decide that, no, you are not getting a ticket, we are going to take you in and charge you with a different offense. So, this is really trying to help us manage our jail system," said Stroger. "And we pay a lot of money to keep people in jail and for small offenses like this, this is saving taxpayers money."

Storger went on to say that the way government works is that the legislature makes the rules, then it is up to the sheriff to enforce the rules.

"So, they don't have to write the ticket. The police can decide we are taking everybody in. But I think they will do what seems to be prudent for the situation," Stroger said.


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