Stroger won't veto tickets for marijuana

July 24, 2009 (CHICAGO) Board President Todd Stroger said Thursday that the law gives police another option when fighting crime instead of an arrest. Stroger says it's another tool for law enforcement.

Cook County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson says there were 173 marijuana arrests in the jurisdiction last year.

The ordinance only applies to unincorporated parts of Cook County and goes into effect in two months.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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