Chicago, IL: Members of the Chicago City Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of a municipal measure to halt the arrest of minor marijuana offenders.
Members of the Council voted 43 to 3 to allow city police the discretion of citing, rather than arresting, those found in the possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less (about one-half ounce) on their person. The new policy will not apply to cases involving the possession of marijuana in public parks or on school grounds, nor would it apply to incidences involving public cannabis smoking.
The new measure takes effect on August 4, 2012.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – a former opponent of reducing marijuana penalties – advocated in favor of the new measure, which mimics police policy in many of the city’s surrounding suburbs. In 2010, the city of Philadelphia enacted a similar policy.
Advocates for the policy change argued that the present criminal enforcement of marijuana possession laws disproportionately targeted African American and Hispanic youth. According to data compiled and posted by the website marijuana-arrests.com, 95 percent of all defendants arrested on marijuana charges in Chicago are either Black or Hispanic. Of those individuals criminally convicted of low-level marijuana possession offenses, 98 percent are either Black or Hispanic.
Under Illinois state law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is defined as a criminal misdemeanor offense, punishable by 30 days to one-year imprisonment.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500.