Illinois: Nearly 99 Percent Of Marijuana Arrests Are For Possession Only

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Illinois: Nearly 99 Percent Of Marijuana Arrests Are For Possession Only

Chicago, IL: Nearly 99 percent of all annual marijuana arrests made in the state of Illinois are for violations specific to the plant's possession, not its sale or cultivation, according to an analysis published by investigators at Roosevelt University.

The report finds that for the year 2010, 98.7 percent of those arrested for violating the states' marijuana laws were charged with possession only. African Americans were nearly eight times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana violations in the state.

The high percentage of cannabis possession arrests stands in contrast to the intent of municipal laws enacted throughout state, including in Chicago, that allow for police to issue non-criminal citations in lieu of arrest for those found to be in possession of small amounts of the substance. In many of these jurisdictions, however, police were still electing to make arrests, the study found. For example, 93 percent of misdemeanor marijuana possession violations in 2013 resulted in arrest in Chicago, while just seven percent of the city's minor marijuana possession cases resulted in tickets.

"Discrepancies in the application of the tickets by geography create a patchwork system of policy resulting in an unequal application of justice," the authors reported. They estimated that marijuana possession arrests and adjudication costs in Illinois cost taxpayers between an estimated $78 million to $364 million per year.

"Changing policing policies to reduce the number of marijuana arrests made so that police can focus attention on serious crimes is a sensible idea," authors concluded. "Lowering the number of arrests is good policy from a public safety standpoint. ...Furthermore, redirecting the focus of law enforcement away from low level marijuana offenses makes both fiscal and economic sense, particularly at a time when budgets are especially tight."

Full text of the study, "Patchwork Policy: An Evaluation of Arrests and Tickets for Marijuana Misdemeanors in Illinois," is available online from at: http://www.roosevelt.edu.

For more information, please contact Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at (202) 483-5500.