Aldermen suggest ticketing for pot possession

October 27, 2011 3:57:13 PM PDT
There is a new call for Chicago police to ticket people for certain drug arrests - such as having small amounts of marijuana - instead of putting them in jail.

The idea comes from Cook County government, but also has the backing of several Chicago aldermen who want the city to do the same thing as the county. The aldermen believe this measure will save the city and the county a lot of money.

At a news conference Thursday, several City Council members announced that they are backing a city ordinance to ticket people in Chicago caught with small amounts of marijuana. They say arresting them is clogging the system, has no effect on the war on drugs and is tying up police officers on the streets.

People caught in Chicago with ten grams or less would get a $200 ticket.

Alderman Richard Mell is among the aldermen who support the ordinance. A proposal will be introduced at next week's city council meeting.

"I think the time has come. As I said before, we are not talking about decriminalizing it, although there is a lot of calls for it. We are talking about making common sense, writing a ticket for it," Mell said.

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, who was also at Thursday's news conference, said that the city needs to make a change in its marijuana policy.

"I think if there is something that we need to collaborate on, it is something like this that affects both the city and the county uniquely. Keep in mind, every resident of the City of Chicago is a resident of Cook County. And as I said, the arrest policy of the City of Chicago has a direct impact on the cost and resources of Cook County. This is in no way me dictating, or trying to dictate, to the city what they should do," Fritchey said.

The Cook County Board passed an ordinance back in September making possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketable offense in areas of Cook County sheriff's police and they are looking to expand the effort further, hoping the city will follow suit.

ABC7 tried reaching Mayor Rahm Emanuel for comment on the ordinance but he has yet to respond. Meanwhile, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she's urging elected officials to join in the effort. She said the county spends about $78 million a year on costs related to marijuana arrests, and taxpayers deserve resources to be spent more productively.

The aldermen at Thursday's news conference say that while this may not be the most popular idea, it is the least expensive.

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