November 4, 2011

Aldermen propose marijuana decriminalization

A new City Council proposal with support from several local legislators may decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Chicago.

Under the measure, people found with fewer than 10 grams of marijuana would receive a $200 ticket and up to 10 hours of community service, but would not be arrested.

Alderman Daniel Solis, of the 25th Ward, will introduce the proposal this week, backed by Aldermen Walter Burnett of the 27th Ward, Ariel Reboyras of the 30th, and Richard Mell of the 33rd, as well as by John Fritchey, Cook County commissioner for the 12th District.

Students predict that the policy change will enjoy ideological support at the University, even if it does not have a major impact on campus life.

“It makes sense to decriminalize [a drug] whose use doesn’t have much of an impact on others,” second-year Danny Rua said.

Alderman Will Burns of the fourth ward declined requests for comment.

Supporters of the bill say the high costs of arresting and jailing someone for marijuana possession leaves fewer police funds to address serious crime.

Arrests for marijuana possession in Chicago number approximately 23,000 per year, according to an October 27 article in the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, the arrest, processing, and incarceration of marijuana offenders cost Cook County some $78 million last year, the Chicago Reader reported.

Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle brought up similar issues of cost control in a speech last week, arguing for reducing the county’s jailed population by 1,000 inmates, which would save the county $5 million.