|Chicago OKs Pot Tickets|
Posted by CN Staff on June 28, 2012 at 09:52:07 PT|
By Kristen Mack, Tribune Reporters
Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago -- The Chicago City Council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana possession, joining a wave of states and big cities that have opted for fines instead of arrests for small amounts of the drug.
Starting Aug. 4, police can issue tickets of $250 to $500 for someone caught with 15 grams or less of pot — the equivalent of about 25 cigarette-sized joints. Given that more than 18,000 people are arrested for pot possession in Chicago each year, the new law could generate millions of dollars for the city.
The push for pot tickets marks the latest in an increasingly long line of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's maneuvers to find new sources of money that largely rely on penalizing people who run afoul of the law. The mayor counted on bad behavior to balance his first budget, anticipating that the city would raise $26 million in increased fines for such offenses as failing to cut high weeds, not feeding parking meters and driving with a suspended license.
This fall, cameras are expected to begin clocking motorists who speed on Chicago streets, resulting in tickets of up to $100 and tens of millions of dollars for the city. Emanuel framed that controversial plan as a way to leverage technology to better protect children near schools and parks.
Like the speed-camera plan, Emanuel insisted Wednesday that the marijuana fines aren't about the money.
"It's not about revenue, it's about what (police officers) were doing with their time," the mayor said. "The only revenue I'm interested in, I don't want to be paying for these officers time and a half to sit in a courtroom for four hours on something that 80 to 90 percent of the time will be thrown out and everybody, both the residents and police officers and judges, already knows the outcome."
In making the case for the city's new approach, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said charges are dropped against the "vast majority" of people arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. And each arrest takes up to four hours of police time, compared with about half an hour to issue a ticket and test the confiscated weed.
McCarthy estimates that the new ordinance will free up more than 20,000 hours of police time, the equivalent of about $1 million in savings.
When marijuana possession cases are dismissed, the city collects no cash.
Emanuel's administration refused to say how much it anticipates raising. But based on the more than 18,000 arrests made for small possession in the past year, the city stands to haul in anywhere from $4.5 million to $9 million. The city's take depends on the amount of the ticket officers decide to write and how many people actually pay what they owe.
Police officers would continue to arrest people caught smoking marijuana or carrying it on park or school grounds. Authorities also would arrest anyone younger than 17 caught with pot or anyone they believed was trying to sell the drug.
Emanuel changed his original proposal to appease aldermen concerned that the city was sending the message that it was going soft on pot. Violators could be required to do community service. Those ticketed could be forced to take part in drug awareness or education programs. And the city still could impound offenders' vehicles.
"All of us have some internal conflict with what we're doing. ... Head-to-heart conflict. I think we did appropriate dialogue, debate, discussion, exchanging ideas and improving an ordinance from beginning (to) end," Emanuel said after the vote.
"This is one piece of correcting what I think has failed year in and year out," he added.
Before the 44-3 vote, several aldermen said African-American and Latino communities are disproportionately affected by the city's current policy to arrest people who possess small amounts of marijuana.
"If you had been white and privileged, marijuana has already been decriminalized," said Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, who voted for the measure. "The only people arrested for these crimes have been black and brown individuals. ... This is a way to potentially level the playing field."
Currently, people convicted of possession face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.
Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, said the new approach will give officers the ability to fight more serious crimes.
"We need to distinguish between people who are part of criminal enterprise and people who are casual users," Pawar said.
Aldermen who voted against the measure expressed concerns about the message it would send to children. Ald. Roberto Maldonado said 15 grams is a significant amount of marijuana and he worried that the new policy would lead to a spike in public use of the drug.
"With the adoption of this ordinance, many of those thugs will perceive and misinterpret the law that it is a license to smoke marijuana in public," said Maldonado, 26th. "That's why I cannot come to terms to vote for this ordinance."
Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, an influential alderman who was among the first to voice concerns about the change, said Wednesday that his "skepticism has turned to support."
"We all come to this debate with different life experiences," said Burke, who noted that although his generation did not widely smoke pot, he is the foster parent of a former "cocaine baby" and he's witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of drug use.
Citing figures he said were provided by the Police Department, Burke said that among the arrests made for marijuana possession in the past year, more than 16,000 of them were of African-Americans.
"Just as I don't want to send the wrong message to kids, I also don't want it to be the case that young Walter or young Travis are going to be 16 times more likely to get locked up in the city of Chicago than some kid from Sauganash or Beverly," Burke said while looking at Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th, and referring to his own son, Travis.
Emanuel's support, which he deliberated over for nine months, makes him the latest U.S. political figure to back reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. This month, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed a similar proposal by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
More than a dozen states and several of the largest U.S. cities have taken similar steps.
Some Chicago suburbs have been doling out possession tickets for years under local ordinances. Fines and procedures vary from town to town, with citations ranging from $25 to $1,000.
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
CannabisNews -- Cannabis Archives
|Comment #4 posted by The GCW on June 29, 2012 at 17:56:53 PT|
They're sittin' on a goldmine.
-Less for more and more for less-
And We're happy because this IS a move forward. Stale crumbs from desk bums.
[ Post Comment ]
|Comment #3 posted by Hope on June 29, 2012 at 14:25:16 PT|
|It really is out of control. So much of a money sucking scheme and scam at our expense. |
It shouldn't be that way.
And they have bought so much power over so many, that no way in God's world, should they have.
[ Post Comment ]
|Comment #2 posted by museman on June 29, 2012 at 12:51:56 PT|
|"It's not about revenue, it's about what (police officers) were doing with their time," the mayor said. "The only revenue I'm interested in, I don't want to be paying for these officers time and a half to sit in a courtroom for four hours on something that 80 to 90 percent of the time will be thrown out and everybody, both the residents and police officers and judges, already knows the outcome."|
Why do the police get paid time and a half for sitting on their asses in a court room in the first place?
Isn't that part of their 'job description?'
I suppose the judges get extra pay for it as well. We already know the lawyers are raking it in - they all think they are Jesus or something standing between common sense and justice as if they had exclusive control over it...wait, they do!
The entire Justice System is run by monstrous, evil persons, and their masters -the corporate politicians.
Lets go vote for them...since they are the only ones running -because they have wealth at their disposal, and most americans believe in that religion more than any other, so they continue to support it.
Money, power, and control. The three motivations for any kind of real 'success' in this society.
Enjoy it while you can FREAKS! You days are numbered, and many begin to see the end of them approaching at speed (and so do the rulers.)
[ Post Comment ]
|Comment #1 posted by Storm Crow on June 28, 2012 at 15:38:41 PT|
|"police can issue tickets of $250 to $500" - averaged that's $375 times 18,000 = $6,750,000. No, it's not about the money....sure!|
If it wasn't about the money, they would be fining folks $25!
[ Post Comment ]