Chicago’s Mayor Favors Marijuana Decriminalization

I’ve followed with more than a passing interest the entire arch of Rahm Emanuel’s substantive and influential career in American politics.

In fact, found in NORML’s extensive forty-two year archives are the hand-typed notes of an author who was working on a major profile of the history of America’s ‘drug war’ and what the then Clinton Administration was implementing as their drug ‘control’ policies.

The author was former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Baum and the book he produced is called ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. Any serious student or activist of drug and cannabis policy must include this book on their short ‘must read’ bibliographic list.ReThink the Leaf

Baum interviewed Emanuel in 1994 in his White House office and, according to Baum’s notes, Emanuel was a tidal wave of expletives against cannabis, and most notably cannabis consumers, calling them ‘leftover hippies’ and medical patients as ‘stoners just looking for an excuse to get high’.

How far has Mayor Emanual come on the issue of cannabis law reform?

The significance of Rahm Emanuel’s progression on cannabis law reform can’t be understated as 1) he was the chief domestic policy advisor during the Clinton era that very actively opposed any medical cannabis reforms or decriminalization efforts at the state/federal level, 2) when he was first elected to Congress he voted against Hinchey Rohrabacher spending amendment bills which sought to limit medical cannabis law enforcement by the feds at the state level, 3) in his last years in Congress he changed positions and voted for the HR amendment, 4) during the last two years in Cook County and in other cities in IL, ‘decriminalization’ measures have either gone into effect or have been proposed without Mr. Emanuel saying “boo” and 5) now the political acknowledgement from Prague no less (talk about a city that can inspire decriminalization and personal freedom!) that he is keen on decriminalization.

Many political pontificators believe Emanual, one of the country’s most aspiring and capable political figures, has his eyes affixed on the presidency in 2016 or 2020, and like his potential rival New York Governor and fellow democrat Andrew Cuomo who recently moved to decriminalize cannabis in NY, might rightly see that being in favor of cannabis law reform is now a political asset, not a liability.

Update: Another clear demonstration that American society is moving towards embracing cannabis law reforms can be found in one of the least likely places on earth: The editorial board of the traditionally (almost reflexively) anti-cannabis Washington Post, who, finally, also now embraces decriminalization.

Hmmm….the pot prohibition plot thickens!

Emanuel backs decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana
Chicago Sun-Times

Staff Reporters
Last Modified: Jun 15, 2012 05:59AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is throwing his formidable support behind a plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

If the City Council goes along, Chicago cops will be free to issue a ticket with a fine ranging from $100 to $500. The tickets would apply to people caught with 15 grams of pot or less.

Last fall, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) proposed a ticket carrying a $200 fine and a 10-gram trigger.

Currently, those caught with small amounts of pot face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.

In a press release, the mayor said writing pot tickets “allows us to observe the law while reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana — ultimately freeing up police officers for the street.”

Emanuel chose to wade in on the hot-button issue while in Prague for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. That allows him to avoid questions about whether marijuana tickets would send the wrong message to kids about a drug that some consider a “gateway” to more dangerous substances.

In 2011, Chicago Police officers made 18,298 arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. Read the rest of this Chicago Sun Times article here.



43 thoughts

  1. THIS is exactly what we’ve been waiting for! Finally, it seems we are having our “duh” moment on cannabis prohibition. I’m almost scared to believe it might actually happen in less then 5 years! How has it taken so long?

  2. Be nice to see the U.S. Government finally say “It’s over”, and simply end prohibition in it’s entirety on a Federal Level.

  3. Get it signed in writing in blood DNA you can affirm later date.

    Otherwise I would not trust.

  4. I think it has a lot to do with politics and the coming of elections. Hating the concerned and self-responsible citizens who are unfairly being ostracized over their positive views on marijuana and to label them as criminals for life if they ever got busted for it, has gotten has gotten some attention and they are no longer afraid to speak out. They are the majority.


  5. Ironically, it seems former rabid prohibitionist Bob Barr was considerably ahead of the curve on this issue.

    [Editor’s note: This keen observation is indeed both true and ironic!]

  6. Why o why cant this be in Texas As for as I know there only one pro cannabis Congressmen in Texas just vote in.

  7. Very Interesting!!! My hope of seeing sanity, and finally legalization, before I die just might happen!

  8. Both NY and California, two significant political influences in America, are decriminalizing small cannabis possession. One can only assume that this will have a rolling effect across the country. It’s enevitable my friends, as suggested by the fact that Obama said “treatment [vs mass incarceration]”. I told my counselor, in about 10 years most of America won’t criminalize small time pot smokers. Tell me I’m wrong.

  9. Sounds like he’s echoing what New York City’s Mayor has been saying. Bloomberg and Emanuel hand in hand.

  10. One note though-

    while all this ‘Decriminalization’ talk is nice to hear, the actuality is still far from the truth.

    Decriminalize means to remove the criminal aspect, the criminal aspect is still present, however hidden away in the wording-

    it is a slight step in the right direction
    and hopefully the momentum continues to grow-


    I see it as:
    “…ultimately freeing up police officers for the street.”

    and fines –> aka revenue.

    There are many towns that seem to generate revenue at the expense of the populace, (often tax payers, [in spite of the stereotypes]).

    And – until we can break the profit chain-
    or at least craft it into APPROPRIATE PERCENTAGED taxes, it will still be an easy score for a cop to justify his time, and help some hit their metrics. (There are, indeed, quotas, and several aspects of them are financially reasoned into being…)

    thanks NORML Team

    we need to communicate and keep the momentum going – the stigma is slowly fading…

  11. This is going to pass for sure! The people of Chicago are tired of the police wasting their time with pot, when Chicago has already had more than 180 homicides this year. The people are really tired of the growing number of deaths and its about time some real measures be taken to free up more police time. Weed is a victimless crime, and sadly Chicago has too many victims to be worrying about weed.

  12. If our elected officials continue to “see the light” maybe we can end this practice of making citizens into criminals and all of us can start working together to make our country great again!

  13. Where to start……..
    I would love to think that our government is willing to listen the truth, however they already know the truth. When will cannabis be available to those who need it? It will be available when those who are uneducated on it are willing to look past the lies
    they have been made to believe. Then and only then will cannabis get a fair shot as medical purpose in illinois. The deciminalization only pasifies the easily broken ones. Just for understanding where I am comming from, look up any negative view on cannabis. The first thing the oposing side wants to make you believe is how bad this vegatable is, by using words like prostutution and homicide and gangs and herion and crack murder. so lets see how it looks with a little less negative outlook.
    blue sky..lemonwedges..birth..miracles..milk..cookies..cannabis.
    To me it doesnt seem so bad when it is produced in this manner.
    This a medicine and the sick do need it but until the older groups of people who continue to repete the ignorence they have been told to believe to the younger people , cannabis will be a closed matter. sure its big talk now because it is an election year , just like all other election years the politics get in the way to attract our views and then the reality will set back in when the lies they told to get in fade away . I dont use cannabis but I have researched it and have come to realize the potential bennifits of this could save people from being tossed aside when conventional drugs dont work,
    educate your selves the internet is so powerful for it.
    Please look up Rick Simson the cure. It is a good starting point for those willing to be educated…..
    thanks for reading

  14. The federal government cannot legalize cannabis, as that would violate the United Nations Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics. All countries who are members of the U.N. are required to ban certain “drugs,” including cannabis, opium and cocaine, for non-medical purposes. That is why cannabis is still officially illegal in the Netherlands, despite being tolerated in small amounts.

  15. @Greyhound – You’re absolutely right that Obama should remove cannabis from the DEA Schedule 1 list!!! However, he has not shown any compassion or understanding regarding this issue thus far since tricking us (cannabis consumers) into helping him to get elected…

    I have never been so disgusted in my life over the degree of hypocrisy Obama has shown!

    Romney would be a nightmare… So, please everyone, vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson in November. I truly hope Gary gets a large percentage of the vote (win or lose) and that it sends a chill down the spines of the prohibitionists that the will of the people is at hand!

    Our time has come! Do your part!!!

  16. Imo Ben is correct because decriminalization still implies a breaking of a law that requires a penalty; whereas legalization removes the criminal aspect. Further, under decriminalization, who grows and distributes it…product safety and taxation are absent…so, ideally we want legalization, product regulation and taxation. For those who think it should be a privately grown only situation, that should be an option but more stable support will be had by making sure it is a valued commodity.

    Having stipulated all of that, decriminalization does make it easier to have conversations and remove a lot of the associated stigma.

    The whole decriminalization push to the control freaks is probably just a way to get us to become complacent and not push so hard for legalization…and that is where Ben is spot on: despite the “win some lose some” battles, until there is full legalization, and a coinciding restoration of our Constitutional rights, we haven’t won THE WAR.

  17. Agree with @Ben, “hopefully the momentum continues to grow,” but no celebrating over a $100 fine, remember that is on top of an already existing ten-to-twenty-fold price disadvantage for cannabis compared to tobacco $igarettes!

    This price differential continues sending the message to children that if you have to smoke something to show you’re as brave as the other boys, well Newports are a hell of a lot cheaper than cannabis, go figure.

    It’s good that cops will be freed up to service neighborhoods suffering real crime. Now THINK– if cannabis were as cheap as tobacco (say, under $20 an ounce, the amount of net weight of tobacco in two packs)– and kids stopped getting hooked on cigarettes (currently nearly a million a year in USA)– how many billions a year we’ll soon be saving on medical services for $igarette diSea$e patients and how much doctor time will be freed up for “real” medical emergencies.

  18. A $100 dollar fine would still not make it a low priority. It just gives a cop an option to do whatever he wants.

    So be polite!

  19. Now let’s get Rahm to hop on board with Rep. Lou Lang’s cadre on House Bill 30!

    This would make two counties in IL where minor possession is decriminalized (Cook and Jackson). The people get it, the mayors get it, now let’s make it happen in Springfield!

  20. I can’t help but wonder if this is Obama’s way to test the waters on decrim or legalization. If his buddy Rahm can stand on this and not be put through the ringer then…? Don’t get me wrong I’m as disgusted with Obama’s drug policies as the guy who sits in prison on this very day for simple possession, but it makes you wonder.

  21. I find it interesting that I am supporting medical marijuana legalization even though I only had reefer 10 years ago, 3 times.

    Your right Chris, I don’t want marijuana to be legalized to quick. One thing at a time. At least we have opened a dialogue and debate. That we have not had that in a long time.

    “History has told us that wars against drugs don’t win. Only education and science will work.” ~ David L


  22. Hello Rahm . How’s the thing with yer Re:B0b .
    Ya. Cannabis . You want 10 grams common amount
    new accord with ideal thought to begin newer!!
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    decriminal sense of money spending as newer 0e
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    as the ruling known to be Peace with Quienda@*
    as the Mexico Islam group to help with hashish
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    stop Skull n Bones with planetary Peace Acodt*
    so the term ARE B warren won’t be a problem to
    Israel futures as warmongering at S. Africa !!
    two exclaim being the symbol of harm reduction
    and international funding to see to Chicago uh
    reason on belief in Higher Power Deific to now
    begin the ruling as proper accord good tidings
    to begin 5 or 10 grams ruling at Midwest to be
    ready to begin Chicago decriminal om
    ~pot _\|/_ / ~n natural cannabis . Got it . Bb

  23. lets take to Springfield HB0030 100% on that Jim lets get the Mayor to support Lou Lang may be that will give us more strength in the capitol.

  24. Under these circumstance provided by mayor Rahm Emanuel, a fine would mean extra revenue to the city and to the police force. It would also be like taxation, but the marijuana would be confiscated.
    If the fine is under $500, most people would pay the fine rather than fight it in court. Cops will also have an uncounted surplus of small quantities of pot on hand through their previous bust. So be polite.

    The interesting thing about Rahm Emanuel’s marijuana decriminalization plan, would the DEA and the Obama’s administration allow it?

    The Controlled Substance Act of 1972 still makes cannabis a felony. That’s the Fed’s “Wild card”.

  25. OK folks its time to make a stand.

    The only thing that can get things done is money and votes. Most of us have voting rights, some have money. If ya have some money to spare – contribute to Normal or a like organization and/or email this message to your elected officials and stand firm. Also send to like minded friends and family:

    To the President, Members of the US Congress, State and local elected officials:

    Criminal marijuana prohibition is a failure. Over 20 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses since 1965 with over 800,000 arrests in 2010 and each year the number increases. The problem is getting worse – not because of the benign plant, but because of the obsolete laws. The time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.

    I can no longer vote for elected officials that support the the current laws. I have decided not to vote for any politician that does not publicly support the removal of all penalties for the private possession and endorse responsible use of marijuana by adults, including cultivation for personal use, and casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts.


    Voting Citizen
    & Member of the Movement

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